Starring: Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert
Director: Todd Haynes
Running Time: 107 mins
Far From Heaven is an American film about a suburban housewife whose life is turned upside down following a revelation from her husband, and the arrival of a young African-American gardener, in the midst of heightening racial tensions in the 1950s.
This is a pretty good film. Although it’s not on the highest level of emotional or historical fascination, Far From Heaven does prove an interesting and often emotionally riveting story of both the facade of suburbia and the awful injustices and prejudices of the time period, complete with an excellent lead performance from Julianne Moore, as well as exquisite directing as always from Todd Haynes.
First off, one of the things that I really liked about Far From Heaven is that it doesn’t just focus on one element of the time period, instead opting to give a more rounded, and in my view more interesting, account of 1950s suburbian America.
So, while there is some fascinating and often infuriating detailing of the injustices suffered by African-Americans at the time, the film also manages to look at prejudices against homosexuality, as well as the ever-fascinating topic of the perfect facade of suburbia, despite the endless string of real-world problems that don’t stop at the city walls.
On the whole then, Far From Heaven does a great job at being a historically interesting film, and it almost manages to match that when it comes to the emotional side of things too. On the one hand, the lead performance by Julianne Moore is both convincing and emotionally resonant. She’s a sweet and pleasant housewife but still manages to showcase a brilliant dramatic range through her acting, and that’s what makes her character so interesting to watch and connect with throughout.
What’s more is that she works brilliantly on screen with Dennis Haysbert, who plays the young African-American man with whom she forms an unlikely relationship. Although there are elements of that story that are never quite as powerful as they perhaps should be, it does at least offer up a both pleasant and yet turbulent story in the midst of the historical context, and the excellent chemistry between the two allows it to be just as emotionally riveting.
Not all of the performances here are quite as impressive, with some of Dennis Quaid’s turn coming off as a little melodramatic at times, whilst numerous other supporting players don’t really offer up enough to emphasise how wide-ranging some of the worst prejudices of the time were, proving less powerful than should have been the case in all truth.
Finally, however, the directing from Todd Haynes is excellent. He pitches the perfect balance between historical drama and rose-tinted romantic drama here, and with his typically sleek and stylish visuals, the film proves an absolute treat for the eyes, something that adds to the more enjoyable atmosphere than you’d expect for the genre.
Overall, I really liked Far From Heaven. It’s not quite the perfect film, and some elements of its story don’t quite prove as riveting or powerful as they could be, but with great central performances, beautiful directing and a riveting historical setting, it’s an engrossing watch nonetheless, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4.