Under Heaven

Photo Courtesy of the Sundance Film Festival

The majesty of this work, of Meg Richman's fine script and direction, rests first in its embrace of film noir and melodrama and second, in its quiet shattering of the rules that govern these genres. Consequently, as Under Heaven enters noir territory with its deception and murderous leanings, the atmosphere which typically prevails (nighttime shadows, etc.) is replaced with bright sunlight, flowers, and waterfalls. Similarly, the "big house" (symbolizing patriarchal values), which is a melodramatic staple, appears here as an airy flowerpot, luxuriant in spiritual and emotional fertility.

The plot is deceptively simple. Cynthia and her slacker, chemically dependent boyfriend Buck are on the road to nowhere. Something's got to change, so Cynthia takes a job caring for the ethereal Eleanor, a wealthy young woman dying of cancer. Eventually Cynthia involves Buck in a scheme of romancing Eleanor in her last days, guaranteeing the money will be bequeathed to him. A fascinating triangular relationship develops that no one has foreseen: Cynthia, Eleanor, and Buck fall deeply in love.

The film is remarkably sensual from start to finish. The characters are extremely attractive and seductive (and engage in one of the sexiest and most moving lovemaking scenes in recent film history). Yet Richman wisely supports overt sexual attraction with an intensely sensual world: music, cooking and eating, conversation, gardening, fashion, color. This is a truly lovely film which is engaging, complex...heavenly.

- Andrea Alsberg

Directed by: Meg Richman
Written by: Meg Richman
Starring: Joely Richardson, Molly Parker, Aden Young, Kevin Phillip, Krisha Fairchild, Marjorie Nelson
Produced by: Mickey Liddell, Robin Schorr, Brian Swardstrom
Original Music by: Marc Olsen

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