Reign Over Me
The room is a lot brighter than this film made me feel.

Golden Mug

Best Picture
Director (Mike Binder)

Theatrical Release Date: 03/23/2007
Director: Mike Binder
Cast: Don Cheadle, Adam Sandler, Liv Tyler, Jada Pinkett Smith

In “Reign Over Me”, Adam Sandler plays a man whose wife and kids were on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center on 9/11. It’s been over four years and his posttraumatic stress disorder still runs his life. He has no friends and refuses to entertain the notion that he even had a family in the first place.

Don Cheadle plays his college roommate. He’s stuck in a rut himself, feeling suffocated by his marriage and his dental practice … feeling as if nothing he does is on his own terms anymore.

Does this sound like a movie for you?

If so, then please, please, please … see this film.

I think it’s been well established that I have a penchant for melancholy and downright depressing films. To put it mildly, I don’t like to walk in the light.

When that expression about seeing the glass half empty or half full comes up, my take on it is that the glass is shattered on the ground with the liquid running into the sewer.

“Sunny” was never a nickname for me in high school.

As such, films that attempt to delve this deep into human misery and pain and tragedy have always attracted me like a moth to a flame.

The problem is, far too often the films don’t take the extra step … they don’t allow the misery and the pain and the heartache and all of that shit … they don’t allow the audience to truly sink into the holes the characters are trying desperately to climb out of.

“Reign Over Me” attempts to do that.

Sure, it’s got comedic moments, little gestures and quips that give the audience a place to breathe … but the beauty of the film is that those moments don’t last.

Those moments aren’t there to save you from feeling the loss … they’re there to compound the angst by giving you a chance to see a little light in the dark.

I’m not like most people, which is a retarded statement to make … but in this instance, I feel like I’m amongst a select few.

Generally speaking, movie audiences want to be lifted up from their lives, they want to escape from the world. Every now and then, a sad film comes along and people allow themselves a couple of hours to grieve but that’s a rare occasion.

With this film, I think writer/director Mike Binder is telling people, ‘Hey, sometimes people’s lives are in ruins … and watching them cope, seeing them struggle … it’s just as beautiful and important as watching people rise above their situations and conquer their fears.’

The actors in the film play their parts pitch perfect. I went into the film expecting the best from Cheadle and the worst from Sandler. Sure, he’d been okay in “Punch Drunk Love” but that film was so quirky that it allowed for his awkwardness to be a part of the character.

In this film, Sandler again does have a safety net of sorts in that his character is fucked three ways from Sunday. His grip on reality is tenuous at best, which allows for some of his odder mannerisms and speech patters to work within the context of the character.

However, that’s not to say he isn’t giving the character one hundred percent of what is necessary. Sandler’s character is in pain … you feel that the entire way through the film. Every odd remark, every angry outburst … you know it comes from that pain – and so you understand and accept it.

There’s even one long, drawn out monologue from his character that not only meets the mark but far exceeds it, and though you could feel the length of the scene, it was still riveting … it was like listening to one of your friends at two in the morning as they’re having the worst night of their lives.

We’ve all been there, we know what it is to sit and listen and comfort someone who can barely keep from exploding their anger, frustration and sadness all over the world.

That’s what this film offers us … a chance to be there as someone reaches their limit, as they seem like they can no longer take any more from their lives.

I know I’m painting this dour portrait but I just can’t stress how much this film affected me, how much it got into my head.

From a film review standpoint, the writing and the acting is excellent. I’ve already waxed poetic about Sandler but obviously, people don’t act in vacuums and Cheadle also provided a powerful, convincing performance.

As he does with nearly every role, his character is multi-faceted and you can see the gears in his head turning. While not nearly as beaten down as Sandler, Cheadle’s character has a profound sense of frustration inside of him. He also needs to deal with his issues before they consume him and possibly drive him towards throwing his life away.

The other actors in the film do a remarkable job of providing a support system for the story, from the reserved, controlled role of Jada Pinkett-Smith as Cheadle’s wife, to Liv Tyler as Sandler’s therapist to Donald Sutherland as a judge involved in deciding part of Sandler’s possible fate.

All of them, as well as the other supporting actors, help to weave a tapestry of these people’s lives that rounds out the scope and message of the film.

At its core, “Reign Over Me” is about how we cannot function on our own. The islands we all pretend to live on are all part of an archipelago of sorts.

Without someone else to be your confidant, to be your friend, to be your soul mate … we are empty and we are prone to losing ourselves to the vast ocean of life.

I think it’s evident that this film really connected with me and created an inner monologue that this review is barely touching the surface of.

I don’t know if everyone will be able to find that same level of resonance but if you think you’re up to the task … if you think a film with this level of sincerity and pain and loss is something you can deal with; then by all means, go out and see “Reign Over Me”.

I’m giving it a 5 out of 5 and I honestly hope there aren’t too many other films this powerful in the near future. After all, I also like the occasional escape now and then … and this is anything but a way out of your own head.