** The film has three versions (Him, Her, and Them) and I watched the two separate ones (Him and Her). **
There is something devilishly interesting about taking on a romantic drama and making it into three separate parts so that the film could dissect the emotions of both sides of the relationship as well as bring them together into as a collective whole. It is even more interesting to place tragedy in the middle of the relationship and dive into how each side deals with loss, both through death and in the end of a marriage.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby takes on this rather daunting task with a lot of promise and while the performers are at the top of their game, a mismatched script and at-times bland directing style seem to suck the life out of what could have been a promising concept.
Him follows Connor (James McAvoy) and picks him up a little before the beginning of Her happens. While it is not shown on camera, Connor and his wife Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) have lost their newborn son and the effects of this have turned their relationship bitter. Connor is currently trying to keep his restaurant afloat while Eleanor stays at home in a sort of shock still from what happened.
When Eleanor tries to commit suicide, and is in turn put in the hospital, she decides to break it off with Connor and try and re-invent her life. This practically takes her out of the picture for Him as the rest of the film deals with the ramifications of their break-up and how Connor is dealing with the loss of his son. He also has his dad (Ciaran Hinds) who is trying to push Connor to work in one of his restaurants while his son tries to manage the amount of hurt that this relationship has had on him in the past.
Him is interesting and becomes more compelling thanks to the performance by McAvoy. Connor is more self-explosive and tries to search for the answers to why Eleanor decided to leave. This disconnect is what makes the movie interesting because while her does this, in the other movie, it becomes more clear of the trauma and guilt that Eleanor has and the fact that she was angry with Connor on how he reacted to the event.
What makes Her more interesting is how compelling Chastain plays the role and how invested we become in how she reacts to the events rather than Connor. While Him fills in more of the gaps of the timeline that is happening during the movie, Her unclouds the issues that faced the couple and how they hope to fix them. Insecurity and self-doubt leads Connor as he tries to search for Eleanor, but guilt and neglect is what she is dealing with on her end.
What disappoints though is the lack of change between the two films. What could’ve been interesting is a change in voice tones or inflections, or how one character perceived a situation compared to the other, and that works to some degree but never does so in an utterly convincing way. Instead, you are left to watch the actors and how they create the scenes and distinguish them, which is another testament to the skills of both Chastain and McAvoy.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby could possible be a treasure of a film that needs more dives into it to find what gold the director was leaving for us. But after one viewing of each, there is still so much left to question that it seems a little disappointing that it couldn’t reach the goals it set for itself. The performances are spot-on by two of the better actors working in the business, but without a distinguishing aesthetic, it never seems to be above the genre it is trying to transcend.