A Small Town in the Vast Plains of Wyoming Brings Focus to Alienation
Apr 12, 2006
Lasse Hallstr?m has the gift to capture the aura of a place and time and allow that atmosphere to color the characters in his stories, making everything he does feel natural and possible. In this very fine film AN UNFINISHED LIFE the setting is the vastness of Wyoming, in a town where everyone knows everyone and remembers everything, but the townsfolk also hold a profound respect for privacy and personal pain.
Einar Gilkyson (Robert Redford) is a man in his 60's whose son was killed in an automobile accident eleven years ago, an accident in which this son's wife Jean (Jennifer Lopez) was driving. Jean left the little town, pregnant with her daughter Griff (Becca Gardner), and has been living a life of guilt and remorse partially relieved by frequent lovers - the latest being the severely abusive Gary (Damian Lewis) whose beatings of Jean and Griff result in Jean's leaving him to go to Wyoming where she hopes Einar will allow her to board until she earns sufficient funds to move on. Einar lives on the same little farm with his long time friend and helper Mitch (Morgan Freeman) and Einar lives with the grief of the loss of his son and with the need to tend to the ailing Mitch who was mauled by a bear. Jean and Griff enter the town and convince the reluctant Einar to allow them temporary quarters: Jean finds work as a waitress at the local cafe run by Nina (Camryn Manheim) and meets the handsome sheriff Crane (Josh Lucas). Slowly these disparate people assimilate over mutual needs and the presence of Jean and the granddaughter Einar never knew he had mends old wounds and leads to adventures that bring their bizarre circle of life to resolution.
Boasting a strong cast and fine script by Mark Spragg and Virginia Korus Spragg, Hallstrom keeps tight reigns on a drama that could have easily splintered into too many sidebars. He makes us work to understand the motivations of each of his characters, a fact that makes the story more involving. Redford, Freeman, and Lopez are excellent as are the lesser but fine roles by Gardner, Lucas, Manheim, and Lewis. Though shot in Canada the feeling of the Wyoming plains is palpable through the fine cinematography of Oliver Stapleton. This is a quiet film of brooding feelings and buried hurts, but the window for redemption is left ajar to open in the end. Grady Harp, April 06
AN UNFINISHED LIFE Have you ever watched something and thought man that was a great movie, but once it sinks in you realize while it was good it came short of classic status. This movie is one of those unfortunately because it is actually a really good movie. Some people may have noticed I have giving lesser films a 5 star rating, I assure you I had reasons for doing so. I do not rate things side by side, I rate things based on my level of enjoyment … more
This film ranks pretty high for me, I recommend seeing this to any and every body. Rent it first to see if it is for you, but if you like it I think it is worth owning. Give it a chance and see how you feel, even if you do not like it I don't think you will say it is not worth seeing.
Pros: ... Cons: ... The Bottom Line: "I am unfinished An unfinished life" ~Joséphine/Craig Wilson After the death of her husband, and embroiled in an abusive relationship, Jean Gilkyson makes a surprising move to the home of her ex-father-in-law, Einar. He lives in a remote area of Wyoming and is completely estranged from Jean and his granddaughter, … more
"An Unfinished Life" is the inscription on 21-year old Griffin's tombstone. He died in a car accident and the driver was his pregnant wife Jean (Jennifer Lopez). Ten years later, Jean is trying to raise their daughter but is being abused by her boyfriend, Gary. She runs to her father-in-law (Robert Redford), a bitter old cowboy who lives on a ranch in Montana where he cares for his only friend (Morgan Freeman). He has never forgiven Jean for his son's death, but grudgingly lets them stay with him. … more
Like many films Robert Redford has been associated with ('Ordinary People' 'The Horse Whisperer), the characters are hurt and are in need of healing. Mostly they need to stop grieving, forgive someone, and just accept the contingencies of life. Instead of being the director, Redford plays Einar Gilkyson, an aging ranch man with horses living in North Central Montana, close to Glacier Park. He shares his ranch house with his friend, Mitch Bradley (Morgan Freeman) who has been debilitated by a grizzly … more
Pros: Acting was good Cons: Too, too predictable... Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. I wonder if Morgan Freeman ever tires of playing the wise old Black sidekick; judging from his vast body of work I suppose the answer is no. Or could it be that those are the only roles he is offered. Whatever the reason, he is back in that now very clique role again in An Unfinished Life, also starting Robert Redford as an old … more
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Much like the late Rodney Dangerfield, some films just can't get any respect. Shelved by Miramax for two years,An Unfinished Lifewas released with little fanfare between Morgan Freeman's Oscar win and Lasse Hallström's higher-profileCasanova. Despite critical praise from some quarters, the heartland drama got lost amidst the shuffle. The title comes from the epitaph of Griffin, late son of Wyoming rancher Einar (a rumpled Robert Redford). Between chores, he looks after ranch hand Mitch (Freeman), who was mauled by a bear the year before. One day, daughter-in-law Jean (Jennifer Lopez) and granddaughter Griff (Becca Gardner) drop by the ranch unexpectedly. They're on the run from Jean's abusive boyfriend, Gary (Damian Lewis), back in Iowa. "I don't want you here," Einar states flatly--he blames her for Griffin's death 12 years ago--but the look on the kid's face convinces him to relent. While Jean works as a waitress in town and embarks on a tentative relationship with Sheriff Crane (Josh Lucas), his newfound granddaughter helps to take care of Mitch. Just as the four are starting to form a loose-knit family, Gary comes looking for Jean and upsets the delicate balance. It may pack fewer surprises than the superiorWhat's Eating Gilbert Grapeand the bear symbolism may be a mite heavy-handed, but the deeply unfashionableAn Unfinished Lifedeserves a second chance to find an audience.--Kathleen C. Fennessy