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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

DVD Review: And Then There Was You

And Then There Was You is a romantic drama about a woman whose life is thrown into disarray when her husband leaves her for the other family that he’s been secretly keeping for years. It stars Garcelle Beauvais as Natalie, Leon Robinson as her husband, and Brian White as the man who soon enters her life.

The film opens as Natalie arrives home after having been away for two weeks. She lives in a nice house in a quiet cul-de-sac. The film allows her a quiet moment by herself, drinking some water. It’s done in a wide shot, which right away establishes the orderliness of the house, the sparseness of it. And then immediately she is unpacking, neatly folding her clothes and putting them away, which shows us she’s the one responsible for the home’s extreme neatness. Her husband, Joshua (Leon Robinson), is in the shower. She goes into the bathroom, but has to prompt him to ask her about her trip. Back in the bedroom, she picks up his wallet, and notices photographs of two children. When asked about them, Joshua tells her they’re his godchildren.

The relationship between Natalie and Joshua doesn’t feel quite real. At dinner she asks, “Must you pour hot sauce on everything?” It doesn’t ring true. It doesn’t feel like there is any history there, though they’ve been married for eleven years. They seem like strangers playing at being married. Their lack of chemistry is really the film’s one major weakness, and it seems due to Leon Robinson’s performance. It is very much on the surface, cold but without any pain behind it. If he’s cold, we should see an effort to be so, and perhaps a failing at it, because the coldness should be a defense mechanism to mask his guilt. But he doesn’t seem to feel guilt. And when Natalie arrives home one day to find Joshua moving out, he seems to feel nothing but anger. He tells her he’s had another family for five years, that the boys in the photos are his sons, not his godchildren.

One thing he does tell her is that he felt he didn’t fit into her overly neat home. She is obsessive about being orderly. There’s a great moment when at night she retches in the bathroom, then immediately reaches for a brush and begins scrubbing the bathroom clean. She then breaks down, and the scene is allowed to continue for a moment, the camera stationary, so it is her emotions that carry and drive the scene.

Natalie works at a day care, and we see that she’s good with children, particularly with Abigail, the daughter of her neighbor Corinth, whom her best friend Marisol remarks is attractive. Natalie tells Marisol that Joshua took all their money, cleaned out their joint accounts. So Natalie has to sell the house. This is another scene where Garcelle Beauvais really shines as Natalie.

That leads to Marisol putting Natalie in touch with Darrell, her handyman. Darrell, a married man, arrives to help with plumbing and landscaping issues so that Natalie can get a better price for the house. Clearly there is some attraction there, but I like that the film allows the relationship to build slowly. Though one thing I would have liked would be for Natalie’s obsessive quality to come out also in this relationship.

I also like that we see something of Darrell and his wife, Sophia (Lynn Whitfield). They have an interesting relationship. After he catches her in bed with another man, she says, “You are playing the hurt husband so well that I almost believe you,” and she laughs. Then she adds, “Well, why the hell did you come in my room anyway?” That one line does so much. Besides showing that they have separate rooms, it really defines their relationship. Plus, it’s damn funny and surprising. Lynn Whitfield is excellent as Sophia in this scene. Sophia later shows up at Natalie’s house to let her know Darrell might have secrets of his own. It’s a nice moment, because we see different layers of Sophia’s character. I like that the film takes the time to make her a more rounded character. She is not simply a villain type. In fact, she’s not really a villain at all, which is great.

Sure, there is some poor dialogue, and there are some clunky moments, and there’s a scene of people slow dancing to “Jingle Bells” (I’m not kidding).  Also, people have a habit of letting themselves into each other’s homes in this movie, which is odd. But there are a lot of really good scenes and some good performances, which make this film well worth watching.

And Then There Was You was written and directed by Leila Djansi (who also wrote and directed Ties That Bind). It is scheduled to be released on DVD on February 11, 2014 through RLJ Entertainment and One Village Entertainment. The DVD contains no special features.

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