The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them is a movie about profound loss that somewhat infuriatingly unfurls as a mystery for its first half-hour. Jessica Chastain is the titular Eleanor, married to Conor (James McAvoy) in a partnership that was, at least at one point, happy (glimpsed in brief, cloying flashback). She attempts suicide by jumping off the Manhattan Bridge early in the film, and as we spend time with her in the immediate aftermath, we try to figure out just what happened to her to precipitate the crisis and why she has cut Conor out of her life.
After a little while, we realize it's because they lost their baby son, and for me, this blew up the entire approach of the film. It makes sense that Eleanor is in the bathtub of grief and pushed away Conor after he attempted to bottle up his feelings and move on. Rigby, from first-time director Ned Benson, attempts to dissect the inscrutability of the titular character's depression, but too often lurches too far into melodrama, with characters silently or loudly raging at why she's acting the way she is. We know why.
No review of the somewhat insufferably-titled The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them can exist without fleshing out the whole strange story of the film's genesis, so here goes: It premiered at last year's Toronto Film Festival in two parts, subtitled Him and Her, focusing on each of the main characters' experiences. The version being released in theaters this week mixes both storylines, although the separate films will also see limited release next month.
The mash-up is occasionally jarring, since Benson established two firm color palettes for his characters that we switch between; it may also be a root cause for the film's issues, since the parallel journeys don't line up as well as one might hope. While Eleanor is trying to put herself back on her feet, living at home with her parents (William Hurt and Isabelle Huppert) and sister (Jess Weixler), Conor is a bubbling cauldron of misplaced anger, trying to keep a failing bar/restaurant afloat. It's tough to sympathize with him once we realize what's going on with her, but given the re-cutting going on, it's hard to know whether that was even the intent.