Magnolia Pictures sent me a pre-release DVD of “The Life Before Her Eyes,” starring Evan Rachel Wood and Uma Thurman, and I feel obligated to offer my readers a review of this haunting, Flannery O’Connor-like movie. Each actress plays — Evan as a teenager and Uma as an adult — a woman named Diana. Diana is a free-spirited teenager — drugs, sex, attitude. As an adult, she is also a woman struggling to cope with the school shooting spree fifteen years earlier. The decisive event occurs when Diana is in high school: Standing in the ladies room next to her evangelical Christian friend, Maureen (Eva Amurri), the high school girls begin to hear screams and gunshots — Columbine-like — when suddenly a young man enters the bathroom with a gun and informs them that one of them will die.
If you don’t want to know the plot of this movie, stop now and wait until you’ve seen it. This is a review of a movie, not an invitation to watch it. There is some graphic violence and some vulgarity.
The movie trades on flashbacks of Diana’s life — it goes back and forth from her teenage years to her adult years. Uma Thurman plays the adult (and psychologically tortured) Diana — a mother, a teacher, a wife.
As high schoolers, Diana and Maureen plot out their futures — Diana thinking of moving on and up while Maureen dreams of a husband, a house full of kids, and a conservative evangelical life. Those dreams, obviously, were interrupted on that tragic day when the gunman let loose in the school.
The plot overturning feature of this movie happens just inches before the movie ends, and I’ll mask it a bit.
First, we are led to think one of the girls was the one who died in the bathroom. She said something like “if you have to kill someone, kill me.” Then, later in the movie, the other one steps up and says “kill me.”
Well, who then died? You tell me. When you see it, tell me how you interpret this movie.
So, what’s the point? I really don’t know. But here’s how I see it: either the movie is a total set up, or the whole thing is a dream — the aborted baby dies and so does the young woman. The mature woman never existed. Thus, the movie comes off to me as a way of saying this: abortion is as senseless and murderous as a murderous rampage by a high school kid.