164 - Far From Heaven (2002)

In 1950's America, scandal is afoot.

Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) has it all. A perfect house in 1957 Connecticut, an endearing husband, Frank (Dennis Quaid), and son, and friends that she often sees to talk about the menial things in life.

When Frank fails to show up for dinner one evening though, the security of her life comes crumbling down around her. As she struggles to go on with her daily life she finds friendship with a black man, Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert), the son of her late gardener.

This friendship only causes more tongues to wag - being seen talking to a black man was highly controversial at the time - and this, in turn, causes problems in Raymond's life.
Theatrical Poster
Source: Subtitles Group

The back of the DVD box was very vague when it came to the storyline of Far From Heaven. It casually mentioned that Frank didn't come home for dinner which ruined his wife's life so when I sat down to watch the film, both myself and my girlfriend had absolutely no idea what was to come.

Had I have known the reasons behind the various protagonists' struggles, Far From Heaven would have been far less shocking. Despite living in a society today which is generally tolerant of all differences (whether they are choices or not), we are transported back to a pre-Luther King era where it is easy to pick up on the scrutiny that society was constantly under.

In order to get the feeling of 1950's across, director Todd Haynes was very clever about his colour choices. Out are pale pastel colours and in are more bold, musty colours such as yellows, browns and reds. There is also more than a hint of alienation for the viewer leading to a feeling of discomfort which, bizarrely, helps with the empathy for Cathy's catch 22 situation rather than putting across characters that no-one cares about.

Julianne Moore fits the role nicely and helps the film tick over (earning herself an Oscar nomination in the process), while Dennis Quaid is simply excellent as her on screen husband. In fact, Quaid and Dennis Haysbert both deliver emotionally powerful performances as males judged for very different reasons in the oppressive 1950's society.

Overall, while the situation is Far From Heaven, the film making is certainly close to it.


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