It’s to be expected that out of all the films that get released a year some might pass you by but every now and then I dip into the Netflix catalogue and my DVD collection to watch a film I didn’t previously know about or consider. This time around it was Mike Binder’s Reign Over Me, a triumph of a movie by any means as it justifies Adam Sandler’s career and features one of the finest bromances devoted to screen in quite some time.
So here is my review.
Reign Over Me (2007)
Written & Directed by Mike Binder
The first thing to say about Reign Over Me is that it’s not a film about 9/11 but most of the film’s characters are structured by it, they lead their life by what happened that day. Both of the films main characters have learnt to live their lives through fear because of it, be it avoiding the truth by slipping away into a world you can control or hiding behind the desires of others, never once contemplating what you want. The day has a power over them that is hard to shake and while its easy to see this film as a tale of overcoming past events, it’s more about finding solace and comfort living with them through togetherness and honesty.
Reign Over Me follows Alan (Don Cheadle), a dentist with a seemingly perfect life. He has a loving wife, two great kids and he lives in the middle of it all in New York City. However Alan is a man afraid of his own shadow, a unwitting victim of the new world that his old college roommate Charlie (Adam Sandler) understands all too well. When Alan sees Charlie on the street he tries to reconnect with him after hearing about Charlie’s tragedy and loss on that fateful day in 2001. While Charlie welcomes Alan into his new life it isn’t without its problems as these two try to help each other reach something better than the lives they inhabit now.
While Charlie has moved into a world of fantasy to hide from his own reality, Alan has just shut down, he has become defensive of the life he has which has removed him from his own families life. He serves the role of breadwinner but not much else. His wife Janeane (Jada Pinkett Smith) is distant from him but not for the reasons you would think. However all this changes with their seemingly innocuous meeting. The film deals with heavy themes but in a very human way. Charlie and Alan’s problems aren’t something that can be solved in one film but the film appreciates the value in a small push, a subtle move towards togetherness and Binder makes this glacial progression intriguing and deeply moving.
However the film really relies upon Charlie and Sandler delivers in spades. His Charlie is not only a tragic figure formed by heartbreak but he is also a funny, intelligent and loyal man, a real friend one would be proud to have. Sandler never pushes Charlie to emote he just lets it all flow out naturally with one of the film’s final scenes being a heartfelt dedication to a life he can barely recognise anymore. The speech is cleverly written from the perspective of a man who doesn’t quite know how to connect to it anymore and Sandler understands this wholeheartedly. Cheadle is equally as impressive. His version of Alan is a man full of rage and bitterness, stuck in his routine with no visible way of escape. His connection to Charlie is his way of battling the loneliness that this life brings him. While Charlie wants to be alone, Alan needs him more than he thinks.
Reign Over Me is a love story to the importance of friendship, a film steeped in all the emotion that 9/11 brings while never using it as a plot point. The film respects the tragic loss of families and people while sympathising with them through this story. The film may tell a simple story but its the lasting effect it has after it has finished that will stick with you.
What do you think of Adam Sandler? Can one film redeem a career full of disappointment and fart jokes? Let me know in the comments section.