Tara Road
directed by Gillies MacKinnon
(First Look, 2007)

Marilyn Vine (Andie MacDowell) lives a fairly happy life in New England with a nice husband and a 15-year-old son whom she loves very much. Then her life falls apart when her son, Dale, dies in a stupid accident at his birthday party. Marilyn's husband had given Dale the motorcycle on which he died as a birthday present -- against Marilyn's advice. As one might expect, Dale's death puts the marriage in great jeopardy.

Meanwhile, Ria Lynch (Olivia Williams) has a very happy life in Dublin, Ireland, until her husband suddenly confesses to having an ongoing affair, leaving his mistress pregnant. Thus, we start with two marriages on the rocks, and two women whose dreams for the future have been shattered.

Marilyn's husband had once had business dealings with Ria's husband, who is land management. Marilyn calls Ria's husband but, forgetting the time difference, awakens Ria in the middle of the night. Why did Marilyn call? She wants to get away from it all, and she tells this to Ria. The two women come to an interesting solution, that will have far-reaching ramifications for both of them: they decide to swap homes for two months.

Will either of them find what they seek? Will they heal? Will they fit in with the somewhat foreign culture into which each is jumping? I will not answer those questions, but I will divulge that the tage-line for this 2005 Irish film is, "Sometimes you must lose your life to find a new one...."

This is not my typical film-choice, as I usually go for science-fiction, comedy, fantasy or adventure films. I am therefore surprised by how much I liked the film. The scenery was beautiful, with the film having been shot in Capetown, South Africa, and in Dublin, Ireland (that's right, nothing in Connecticut). The heart of this film is the acting of the two main characters, and both Williams and MacDowell do justice to their parts. The supporting cast also does its part, with Iain Glen (Ria's husband, Danny) portraying a very likeable cad whose charm and duplicitousness are equally undeniable.

The weak spot in the film was its unrealistic penultimate scene, featuring a showdown between the good guys (Ria, Marilyn, Marilyn's husband and Danny's boss's wife almost miraculously resolving a major problem created by the "bad guys" (Danny, his boss, his mistress and two surprise villainesses).

This movie is a bit of an oddity in that the tear-jerker part, which definitely exists, is more in the beginning, instead of at the end. The movie is really a character study, and an exploration of novel ways people can work through grief and loss.

This DVD has only one bonus feature, besides some trailers, and that is an interview with the author of the book upon which the movie is based, Maeve Binchy. To me, this interview was not very useful, as Binchy gives us a plot synopsis and an idea of what inspired the tale, but she speaks so rapidly and inflectionlessly that I barely understood most of what she said. I would suggest not viewing this feature before watching the film, as Binchy gives up some spoilers, if you can understand her.

review by
Chris McCallister

15 November 2008

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