The name “Eleanor Rigby” recalls the Beatles’ same-titled iconic song of haunting loneliness, but writer-director Ned Benson uses a character of that name as a basis for one of the more thought-provoking romantic dramas of the past cinematic year. Benson’s film, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby – which plays at the Flint Institute of Arts this month – pairs co-stars Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy as a New York couple whose marriage is disintegrating during trying times – most notably, a shared tragedy. Benson made two films at once – one through the wife’s perspective (subtitled Her), and one through the husband’s eyes (Him). A third, unifying version, subtitled Them, is the one that will show in Flint. What is the link between Benson’s work and the Beatles’ song? To find out, you’ll have to see the movie, playing January 16-18 in the museum’s Friends of Modern Art film series. William Hurt, Viola Davis, Ciaran Hinds, and Isabelle Huppert also appear in what is a standout cast. “I didn’t just want to make another relationship movie,” Benson told Entertainment Weekly in a recent interview. “I wanted to show the difficulties of love and how we endure through those difficulties. And I wanted to be as hopeful as possible.”
A romantic union of a different sort is highlighted in the FOMA series’ January 9-11 selection, Love Is Strange. It’s a drama about a painter (John Lithgow) and a music teacher (Alfred Molina) who get married after more than 30 years together, then face crippling economic and social concerns. Marisa Tomei also appears in a story praised by the Boston Globe as “one of those lovely little movies that starts out being about a handful of people and ends up being about all of us.”
Also playing at the FIA in January are a pair of European entries. A Five Star Life (January 23-25) is an Italian romantic comedy about a professional hotel critic who tries to cope with her place in the world – even as she travels through much of it. The Blue Room (January 30 through February 1) is an intricate French thriller about a man, a woman and the prospect of a serious crime. The latter was written and directed by its co-star Mathieu Amalric, most recently seen at the FIA in the comedy-drama Venus in Fur – and known to mainstream viewers as the main villain in the James Bond entry Quantum of Solace.
All FIA screenings are at 7:30pm Fridays and Saturdays and 2pm Sundays. Tickets, available at the door, are $6 general admission, $5 for FIA members, and $4 for FOMA members. For more details, visit flintarts.org. ♦