'An Unfinished Life'
(Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, et al / DVD / PG-13 / 2006 / Miramax)
Overview: Academy Award(R) winners Robert Redford (Best Director, 'Ordinary People,' 1980) and Morgan Freeman (Best Supporting Actor, 'Million Dollar Baby,' 2004) star in this powerful story of risk and redemption. Stoic and heartbroken, Einar Gilkyson (Redford) quietly lives in the rugged Wyoming ranchlands alongside his only trusted friend, Mitch Bradley (Freeman). Then, suddenly, the woman he blames for the death of his only son arrives at his door broke, desperate, and with a granddaughter he's never known.
DVD Verdict: Director Lasse Hallstrom has twice been nominated for Best Director Oscars for "My Life as a Dog" (1987) & "The Cider House Rules" (1999) in addition to the memorable "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" He guides this film with a sure and steady hand that is as unhurried as it is precise. Oliver Stapleton's stunning cinematography captures the beauty of the West. The pivotal character is Robert Redford's Einar Gilkyson whose son died in an auto accident before the film begins. Redford's only Best Actor nomination came in 1973 for "The Sting," but he delivers a seethingly controlled powerful performance as a man haunted by his past yet struggling to make good moral choices. His foil is hired ranch hand Mitch who was mauled by a bear. From his Oscar nominations for "Street Smart," "Driving Miss Daisy," and "The Shawshank Redemption" to his win in 2004 as Best Supporting Actor in "Million Dollar Baby," Morgan Freeman has proved one of our best actors. He has a knack for communicating great depth of character each time he is on screen. Excellent makeup made it a little uncomfortable for me to watch Redford put salve on Freeman's back wounds, but it showed the extent of the injury. Einar faces his past and the loss of his son while Mitch faces his fears about the great bear that mauled him. Since she was driving the car that killed her husband and Einar's son, Jean played by Jennifer Lopez moved away, had a baby, and has gone from man to man and bad to worse in relationships. Damian Lewis from "Dreamcatcher" and the TV miniseries "Band of Brothers" plays the abusive Gary, creepy & manipulative. Jean seeks refuge with Einar only to be stalked by Gary. I find Jennifer Lopez to be a very good actress. She riveted me to the screen in "Angel Eyes" and deeply impressed me in "Enough." Her range may not be broad, but she gives a sense of honesty and sincerity in each performance that has an edgy depth. In this setting with Redford & Freeman, she shines. Josh Lucas plays the sheriff Crane that becomes involved romantically with Jean. He does a good job in this supporting role. As the waitress Nina in the restaurant who gives Jean a job and a crashpad when needed, Camryn Manheim does an excellent job with her limited screen time. Becca Gardner in her first movie as Griff, named after her deceased father, gives a really engaging an edgy performance. I particularly appreciated the child's independence and seeing her relationship with Mitch bloom from fear to caring. While "An Unfinished Life" is not the most fast-paced film you'll see, the relationships and working through the conflicts of the past to come to a new present make this an valuable viewing. Oh, yes, the bear is very good too! Enjoy! This is a Widscreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Commentary by: Director, Producer and Editor
"The Making Of An Unfinished Life" Featurette
"Training Bart the Bear" Featurette
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French