“All the lonely people, where do they all come from? /All the lonely people, where do they belong?” These famous lines from the Beatles’ song Eleanor Rigby perfectly sum up the stunningly-filmed The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her.
This romantic drama is one of three perspectives of the same story: hers, his, theirs. It is especially remarkable given that it is Ned Benson’s directorial debut.
The film opens as the title character Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain) jumps off a bridge. She is rescued from the water below and taken to hospital, where she asks her husband Conor (James McAvoy) if they can take a break from their marriage. She then moves out of their apartment, and rejoins her family, thus “disappearing”. From then on, Eleanor and Conor waver between trying to fix their relationship and forsaking it to seek their own identities.
Benson’s inexperience as a director is apparent. By only giving Eleanor’s perspective, many characters are under-developed and their roles in the film remain questionable. Conor’s presence is also too limited given that he is the male protagonist; however, at least his being there makes the chemistry between him and Eleanor clear. Perhaps watching all the perspectives would help clarify the convoluted aspects of this film.
McAvoy’s performance, and that of William Hurt as Eleanor’s dad are also mediocre, paling in comparison to Chastain; they’re not helped by the fact they’re given the most saccharine and hackneyed lines in the entire film.
Despite all the flaws, the superb cinematography, hauntingly perfect soundtrack, and Chastain’s tear-jerking and heartbreaking performance are the highlights of this film. But it is Eleanor’s flashbacks, which evoke a huge amount of sympathy and compassion, that lift this from merely passable. The decline of Eleanor Rigby is heartbreaking, essential viewing.