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Movie Review

An Unfinished Life

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Director: Lasse Hallstrom

Starring: Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, Morgan Freeman, Josh Lucas, Damien Lewis and Becca Gardner.

Duration: 107 minutes

Certificate 12A

1 of 1 Decent acting
Decent acting

After one wallop too many Jean (Lopez) leaves her abusive boyfriend. Her desperation to flee sees her head, with her 11-year-old daughter Griffin (Gardner), to the ranch in Wyoming where her estranged father-in-law Einar (Redford) lives.

Einar has not spoken to Jean since the death of his son 11 years ago - which he fully blames her for. He also indirectly holds her responsible for the break-up of his marriage and his farm falling into disrepair due to the alcoholism that sprung from his grief.

He is now going through the motions of a half life, trapped by bitterness and guilt. His only motivation for living is to care for his old friend Mitch (Freeman) who was left disabled after a mauling by a bear.

So complete is their estrangement that Einar does not even know he has a grandchild. Although he keeps up the iceberg treatment of Jean, his torn heart starts to respond to his granddaughter's longing for a father figure.

Based on the book by Mark Spragg, the themes of forgiveness – of other people and yourself – and the necessity to live in the present and relinquish the past, no matter how tragic, are well-flagged with some obvious symbolism.

Newcomer Becca Gardner is excellent as the cautious Griffin; Morgan Freeman exudes his usual gravitas and dignity and Redford has the stubborn Einar down to a tee.

Lopez is quite good, if a little pretty for the landscape, and shows what she can do with a decent script (remember 'Out of Sight'?), unlike her recent woeful roles ('Maid in Manhattan', 'Monster-in-Law', 'The Wedding Planner') she pulls off the messed up Jean who believes she does not deserve a happy life and moves from one man to the next (very quickly in this case).

Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom ('What's Eating Gilbert Grape?', 'My Life as a Dog') paces the slow moving, subtle, action with real tension from bears – in the form of a real grizzly and the return of Jean's menacing boyfriend Gary (Lucas).

Yes, it's predictable and sentimental, but the gorgeous scenery (actually filmed in Canada), decent acting and a well-paced plot make this an enjoyable film.

Mary McCarthy

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