Sometimes a foreign director wins the attention of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, swiftly gets a shot at big-time American moviemaking - and reveals himself or herself to be a modest talent when the work is stripped of subtitles. That's the case with Rendition's Gavin Hood (the South African Oscar-winner for Tsotsi) and also the Danish writer-director Susanne Bier. She has followed the American art house successes of Open Hearts (2002) and her Oscar-nominated After the Wedding (2006) with Things We Lost in the Fire, the tale of a recent widow, Audrey Burke (Halle Berry), and a drug addict, Jerry Sunborne (Benicio Del Toro), who was her husband's oldest and best friend.
Although Bier has been a member of the austere, avant-garde movement known as Dogme 95 - and still uses a handheld-camera here - I've always thought her movies raised one question: What happens to a soap opera when you blow the suds away and take out the rhythms and the melodies? Are you left with unvarnished truth or a more ascetic soap opera?
Things We Lost in the Fire (Paramount) Starring Halle Berry, Benicio Del Toro. Directed by Susanne Bier. Rated R. Time 113 minutes.