STUDIO: Miramax
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 108 min.
• Feature Commentary by the Director, Producer and Editor
• Making-Of
• Training Bart the Bear
• Still Gallery

The Pitch

“It’s The Horse Whisperer meets Legends of the Fall. Hey. Wake up!”

The Humans

Robert Redford (Indecent Proposal), Jennifer Lopez (Monster-In-Law), Morgan Freeman (Along Came a Spider), Josh Lucas (Poseidon), Camryn Manheim (Scary Movie 3), Damian Lewis, Becca Gardner

"Ain’t seen Ennis and Jack around in a while. What you reckon they’re up to?"

The Nutshell

Einar Gilkyson (Redford) is living out the last act of his life on his run-down Wyoming spread, accompanied only by crippled ranch-hand Mitch (Freeman) and bitter memories of his deceased son Griffin. One day, Griffin’s widow Jean (Lopez) shows up after years of estrangement, daughter in tow, with nowhere else to go. Einar blames Jean for his son’s death, but hospitality still counts for something—as does 11-year-old Griff (Gardner), the spitting image of her dad.

The road to reconciliation won’t be without its bumps: not only is Jean’s violent ex-boyfriend (Lewis) on the warpath, but there’s a rogue grizzly bear out there, hankering for a second helping of Freeman flesh.

Bear, deboned.

The Lowdown

An Unfinished Life is tastefully mounted, thoughtfully written… and too formalized to connect on a gut level. We’re always made aware that things Mean Something: a bear can be a symbol of life that must be lived, but sometimes it’s just a bear. The periodic check-ins with the stalker boyfriend are predictable as well.

The cast makes it work– it’s not Redford’s fault that even at his age (67 when the film was shot) he’s too damn good-looking to play an old codger. Lopez nails her Northwest accent, and Freeman takes a break from narrating, even though his character once again functions as the hero’s conscience. Josh Lucas is effective as the local sheriff, and newcomer Gardner (who bears a strong resemblance to Anna Paquin) holds her own among the pros.

Oliver Stapleton’s old-school ‘scope photography makes a strong case for shooting on location—there’s no faking the harsh terrain (though British Columbia stands in for Wyoming) and lived-in buildings.

The Package

The extras are headlined by an excellent commentary from director Lasse Hallström, producer Leslie Holleran and editor Andrew Mondshein. This movie sat on the shelf for a while, and the filmmakers are up-front about its many edits and revisions. Hallström cops to the melodramatic nature of the ex-boyfriend subplot, and I was gratified to learn that they decided against what would have been an excessively tidy conclusion.

The Making-Of is a conventional EPK lovefest, but the Still Gallery is unusually well-shot and deserves special mention for its gorgeous Kamloops sunsets.

You can take only so much sunshine and fresh air, man.

7.5 out of 10