The title track “Love Reign O’er Me,” by Pearl Jam, speaks multitudes about the message this star-studded cast communicates.
In the movie Reign Over Me, Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) has lost himself and is left broken after losing his family in 9/11. Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) is losing himself in his life as a dentist, father and husband. The two cross paths years after having been college roommates. They each try to help the other become the man they cannot see in themselves.
As Charlie suffers through severe post-traumatic stress disorder, Alan puts up with his outbursts of anger and detachment over and over again.
Through a genuine attempt to support a friend, Alan is vicariously trying to excite and change his own life.
The movie continues to throw twists and turns of death, finances, family and court as the characters choose to the power of love, just as the title song takes power over the movie. The way the scenes are often slow, disjointed and choppy adds to the reality of it all.
This movie is closer to reality than most self-proclaimed reality television shows, but is it what audiences really wanted?
Writer and director Mike Binder boringly transitions from scene to scene just as one walks through his/her day. Scenes are long or disconnected. Drawn-out scenes in a club that escalate into Charlie’s predictable anger and ten minutes of Alan sucked into a video game prolong unnecessary moments. Long pauses in the midst of argument and discourse are set alongside a lack of character development, leaving the viewer with unfulfilled desires to connect with the powerful story and characters.
Such underdevelopment can be seen when Charlie tells the story of what broke him so badly when he watched the very plane his family was on crash into the twin towers.
Later, Charlie kisses his mother-in-law after telling her that pictures of his wife and children are not that important, because he sees them every day. Alan apologizes to his wife for being distant.
These are all scenes that would have been tear-worthy if preceded by apparitions of Charlie’s wife and children or Alan’s wife’s tears as her husband emotionally abandons her. However, these scenes never happened, and the tear-jerkers were left unformed.
The reality of the movie hits home in a way that could have changed lives. It is about more than a man broken by American tragedy. These characters come across as real people encountering real problems, but the director fails to sufficiently draw the viewers into the world of the characters.
The message of love’s power is a strong one. It is about love covering and mending all of the broken pieces that slowly begin to come together in the final scenes.
The title track drives home the point that love must reign in order for healing to begin. But, Reign Over Me does not visually connect viewers enough to the brokenness and dysfunctions of the characters that are reconciled by love.