By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A desperate man tries to connect with his isolated, suicidal wife in a complex, detailed and intimate look at an eroding marriage, as a first-time director attempts to layer both the male and female perspectives of a relationship.
"The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them," out in U.S. theaters on Friday, is an intricate study of a crumbling marriage, an amalgamation of two earlier films that explored the relationship from the male and female characters.
"Eleanor Rigby: Him" and "Eleanor Rigby: Her" will also be released by the Weinstein Co in theaters on a limited run.
"Them," written and directed by 37-year-old filmmaker Ned Benson, follows young New York couple Eleanor and Connor, played by Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, as they find themselves being pulled apart by tough circumstances.
As Connor desperately tries to reconnect with Eleanor, she tries to overcome her trauma, which is gradually unveiled throughout the film, by disappearing into a new personality.
"I've discovered women want to eradicate their history, completely pretend it didn't happen because it's far too painful, and men want to fix it," Chastain said of Eleanor's transformation. "If someone reminds her of (the trauma), she's going to kill herself. She wants to be able to move forward."
For Benson, "Eleanor Rigby" started a decade ago when he wrote the script for "Him" at age 27 and took it to his long-time friend Chastain to play Eleanor.
Chastain, 37, described the character as "very cold, inaccessible and mysterious, kind of the idea of the girl who got away or the girl you can't get over."
Over lunch, the actress pressed the director to reveal more about her character. Benson wrote a second script over the next five years, this time from Eleanor's perspective.
"I don't know what it means to love in this day and age. My question is about longevity and compromise, and how we make a relationship work and endure," the director said.
While "Him" and "Her" tell Connor and Eleanor's story from their individual perspectives, "Them" acts as an outsider looking in. Benson said McAvoy and Chastain had to play their characters differently in each film. In "Him," Eleanor is cold and distant, just as Connor sees her, whereas in "Her," Connor is an incomprehensible force, as viewed by Eleanor.
"It's about two people who deal with things in completely different ways and then realize that they're the only two people that understand each other and what they went through," he said.
"The catalyst for that, even though it's bleak and dark, I think it's representative of anything that can happen to any relationship."
After playing Eleanor, Chastain said it didn't make answers about marriage any clearer in her own life.
"I don't know if I'm ever going to get married in my life. For me, I'm not interested in getting married, getting divorced and all of these things that you see happening a lot nowadays," she said.
"I'm still learning."
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy.; Editing by Patricia Reaney)