When I told my brother I was going to see “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them,” he thought I’d be watching a documentary about The Beatles. Ned Benson’s inaugural film isn’t about John, Paul, George and Ringo, but watching it, one can’t help but think of their melancholic 1966 song and the woman wearing the face she keeps in the jar by the door.
“Them” isn’t really a film at all, but a puzzle pieced together with parts of two other films. In a series of flashbacks and chronological jumps, it tells the story of Eleanor Rigby and Conor Ludlow, a married couple in their early–thirties whose relationship and lives have caved in. Two other films, subtitled “Him” and “Her,” are told from each spouse’s perspective, and won’t be released until October 10th. “Them,” which came out on September 14th, is an account of their relationship as one might have seen it from the outside looking in.
The movie begins with its least ambiguous, happiest scene: the couple dining and dashing and very much in love. Next comes Eleanor’s attempt to take her own life and her “disappearance” from Conor’s. As she recuperates at her parents’ house, the audience learns about her past with Conor and catches hints of the tragedy that changed the course of their marriage. While Eleanor takes classes on identity from Viola Davis, Conor manages his struggling restaurant alongside chef and best friend Bill Hader. Benson and his team chose to use different color palettes and camera rhythms to convey each perspective, and in “Them,” these subtle differences deepen the divide between the couple.
Each scene in “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them” is tinged with sadness and obscurity. While this haziness leaves more questions than answers, it’s also believable: tragedies and the sadness that follows don’t come in neatly wrapped packages for the theatre–going audience. It’s frustrating, but it doesn’t seem fake.
If “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them” is a puzzle, it seems incomplete without “Him” and “Her.” While it’s a long shot that all viewers will be willing to return to the theatre for two more films, the first installment isn’t quite enough for me.