Things We Lost in the Fire is rough going at times and not just because of its downbeat examination of the different ways people attempt to deal with catastrophic loss.
Though it sometimes feels manufactured, this film has the gift of gathering strength as it goes on.
Halle Berry, who plays a wife and mother whose husband is killed early in the film, does her best work since winning an Oscar for Monster's Ball. The superb Benicio Del Toro plays Jerry, an off-and-on heroin addict who was especially close to her husband.
Jerry is as much at a loss as the widow is. With nothing in common except the dead man, these two gradually move toward a connection that may allow each of them to find reasons to keep living.
This story certainly has its moments of self-conscious earnestness. But whenever you're about to give up, there's a knockout dramatic moment between Berry and Del Toro.
The two actors engage each other in the most intense way — the dynamite of their relationship, set off by things as small as swimming lessons, holds us in its sway.
The great thing about Danish director Susanne Bier is her willingness to deal seriously and unapologetically with the strongest possible emotions. Bier's ear for English is erratic, but her ability to animate the core of Things We Lost in the Fire makes it very much worth seeing.