Friday, June 22, 2007

The Portrait of a Lady

I really don’t know how to begin to review
A Mighty Heart, Michael Winterbottom’s docu-style retelling of the events that followed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and eventual murder.

This being the first Important Film of the season – strike that, 2007 – I cannot talk about the story because what happens on screen closely depicts what may have happened in real life. And it would be pointless.

On Jan. 23, 2002, Mariane Pearl's world changed forever.

Her husband Daniel (Capote’s Oscar-nominated screenwriter Dan Futterman), South Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, had been researching a story on shoe bomber Richard Reid. The story drew the couple to the Middle East, to Karachi, where a go-between had promised him access to an elusive source.

As Danny left for the meeting, he told Mariane – who was six months pregnant – that he might be late for dinner.

She spent part of her day working, and the other part shopping for the ingredients for the picadillo she prepared that evening.

He never returned.

Full of dignity and respect, A Mighty Heart chronicles the agonizing days from the couple’s final good-bye, through the heartbreaking day when Mariane learns her husband “didn’t make it,” and past the birth of the son Danny had hoped to name Adam.

Transcending race, religion and nationality – and in Angelina Jolie’s case, all the headlines – the film is the portrait of Mariane's courageous and graceful desire to rise above the bitterness and hatred that continues to plague this post-Sept. 11 world.

As it was the case with United 93, A Mighty Heart’s strongest point is its all-too real story – that cannot be denied.

But Jolie’s tremendous performance carries the film, and serves as a timely reminder of what an able and dynamic actress she is. When her Mariane finally receives the devastating news she had feared, the actress’ sharp wail released a pain I felt in my skin.

My Rating ****

Photo: Paramount Vantage.

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