Roughly, half of all American marriages end in divorce; here in Australia the figure is more like one in three. Cheery thoughts.
Equally cheery is Australian director John Curran’s latest film We Don’t Live Here Anymore, a meaty, emotional portrayal of the crumbling marriages of two cheating couples who are also the best of friends.
Laura Dern and Mark Ruffalo are explosive as Terry and Jack Linden, a couple with two kids trapped inside a disintegrating marriage fuelled by resentment and a squashed down fury that erupts when lubricated by enough booze.
Jack and his best friend Hank, Peter Krause from Six Feet Under, work as lecturers at the local university, and are running and drinking buddies.
Hank chases as much skirt as he can and has no interest in the concept and practice of monogamy. His wife Edith (Naomi Watts), tired of being loved but ignored, has thrown herself into a passionate affair with Jack.
Edith and Jack specialise in sneaky sex -“ in hallways, cars and after illicit picnics in the local forest park, nudged up against the rough bark of trees.
Hank half-knows what’s going on and makes a pass at Terry, who is later infuriated when Jack suggests she have the affair with Hank. But she does all the same -“ hot dirty sex in Hank’s car.
We Don’t Live Here Anymore is based on two short stories written in the 1970s by American writer Andre Dubus who was acutely interested in whether there can be a morality in adultery.
Can you cheat decently? Well, by the look of how these four friends fuck each other around, it would seem not. And do you cheat because you want to love or because you want to hurt someone else?
The performances are strong, especially from Mark Ruffalo and Laura Dern whose rough and tumble battles lift the drama to epic levels.
It’s easily Dern’s best gig in years -“ she is devastating on screen as the passionate, intelligent woman trapped in the boredom of keeping house, and keeping it badly.
John Curran sits with the fury and smouldering heartache long enough for us to empathise and be glad that it’s not our relationships under the microscope.
And the film’s resolutions, while as unsatisfying as going back into a faulty marriage, ring true enough.