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Laramie Movie Scope:

Fascinating concept for psychological thriller flawed in execution

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(2007) A tragic week for Linda Hanson (Sandra Bullock), mother of two young daughters, begins on Thursday morning with a cryptic message on the answering machine from her husband Jim (Julian McMahon), away on an overnight business trip, before Sheriff Reilly comes to her door, informing her that her husband had been killed yesterday in an accident involving a semi at mile marker 220 on highway 57. After her mother comes over to help with Bridgette and Megan, Linda goes to bed, waking up to find Jim downstairs having breakfast in front of the TV on Monday morning, days earlier.

The chronology of events of the week are inconsistent with the order in which Linda experiences them in director Mennan Yapo's psychological thriller from a script by Bill Kelly. For her Saturday follows Thursday and Monday, then come Tuesday, Friday, Sunday, and Wednesday. Unfortunately the film's continuity also suffers a fatal flaw early on since Bridgette's face is unscathed on Thursday even though she ran through a glass door on Tuesday, badly cutting up her features.

Mirrors are covered when she wakes up on Friday; lithium pills are scattered in the bathroom sink from a bottle prescribed for her by Dr Norman Roth; people are gathered downstairs; Bridgette's face is disfigured. "Something is really, really wrong," Linda complains: "He's not dead."

But as the hearse arrives with the casket for the funeral, Linda, demanding to see the body, receives shocking, undeniable proof of Jim's being dead. Away from the gravesite, an unfamiliar blonde woman stands watching; she tells Linda of their having conversed the previous day, before quickly leaving the cemetery.

In the evening Dr Roth (of whom she has no recall) appears at her home, removing her from her children (suspected of using violence on Bridgette) for commitment to a mental hospital. But then she wakes on Tuesday with Jim in the shower. "Tell me what's going on," he asks. "I don't even know how to explain it," she replies, hugging him.

In the office of Dr Roth, a psychiatrist she'd found in the phonebook, she describes her dilemma: "I wake up and he's dead. I wake up and he's alive." He writes her a prescription for lithium. At Jim's office she's introduced to his new assistant manager, Claire Francis, the woman from the cemetery; at home Bridge runs through the glass door.

Linda makes a calendar of the week's events, looking for a pattern in the madness, and hides it. She pleads with Jim not to go on the trip the next day.

Waking up again, this time Friday morning, she visits with Claire and then says to her friend Annie: "Maybe it was supposed to happen." To her mother (who perceives her daughter as going insane) Linda says: "If I let Jim die, is that the same as killing him?"

On Sunday morning she wakes with Jim beside her in bed. While he's out with the girls, she goes to confess her fears of having a terrible premonition to a priest who relates to her how "history's full of unexplained phenomena," such as a 17th-century woman condemned of being a witch for foretelling of a hurricane, a condition "the ancients called blasphemane absens fides: The dangers of the faithless." People without faith are empty vessels, a vacuum in nature, he expatiates - referring to faith as love or hope - vulnerable to powerful forces. "It's never too late," he assures her.

When she wakes up on Wednesday, is it a premonition or premeditation? Is she crazy or a lost soul? Can she save Jim if she tries?

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Copyright © 2009 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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