THE EVENT (Review)


Thom Fitzgerald’s (The Wild Dogs) The Event begins on a somber note with the carting away of a recently deceased young man in an ambulance.

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Thom Fitzgerald’s (The Wild Dogs) The Event begins on a somber note with the carting away of a recently deceased young man in an ambulance. Things don’t brighten up too much from there as a New York district attorney; Nick (Parker Posey, A Mighty Wind) investigates the suspicious death of the young man and a possible connection with a series of other mysterious deaths that have taken place in Chelsea’s gay community.

 

The set-up would seem to imply a straightforward mystery; however, the film is much more than that. The Event is a complex, personal story filled with rich characters and rife with painfully challenging questions about life, living with AIDS, dying with AIDS, and the process of death itself. Few clear answers are provided as Nick digs deeper into the death and life of Matt (Don McKellar, eXistenZ). But, as the film progresses, the question of "whodunit" becomes largely irrelevant. The mystery becomes more human and philosophical in nature.

 

The majority of the screen time of The Event is consumed by various flashbacks of the recently departed Matt, who had been suffering from AIDS for quite some time. Fitzgerald’s decision to utilize flashbacks to flesh out Matt’s life and loved ones is an apt one. The flashbacks parallel Nick’s quest to uncover the truth about what happened to Matt. With each flashback, it seems that Nick is gradually getting closer and closer to the truth. But, these flashbacks also serve to complicate things for Nick as she learns more about Matt’s suffering and those who loved him. Fitzgerald skillfully interweaves Nick’s interrogations of Matt’s friends and loved ones with the various flashbacks. This creative decision works well as we begin to assemble the various pieces of Matt’s life and the events that transpired around the time of his death.

 

The Event contains some excellent performances from Olympia Dukakis (Steel Magnolias) and Sarah Polley (The Sweet Hereafter). Dukakis plays Matt’s mother, Lila in a performance that is complex, powerful, and moving. It has been quite some time since I have seen Olympia Dukakis on screen and her performance in The Event is astonishing. The challenges Lila is confronted with are daunting and Dukakis’ ability to understand and convey the pain associated with these challenges believably on-screen is remarkable. Sarah Polley also does an excellent job as Matt’s younger sister Dana. The candor, maturity, and unending love Dana displays towards her brother make her immediately endearing. I Yet I would have liked to see a bit more out of Parker Posey’s portrayal of Nick. While she does well as an "icy" district attorney in the beginning, it seems there’s more to Nick than meets the eye. However, we don’t see any real evidence of Nick’s depth on screen until the last ten minutes of the film.

 

It has been some time since I have seen a film that asks the kinds of sensitive and difficult questions that The Event does. Fitzgerald is to be commended for his insightful and sensitive handling of extremely challenging subject matter. Fitzgerald manages to inject some moments of levity and outright hilarity into a film that easily could have been quite depressing. That being said, there are some very painful moments in The Event, but they are necessary and not overwrought. For Fitzgerald’s skillful handling of the subject matter, intelligent writing and directing of his characters, and posing challenging questions of his viewers, The Event more than qualifies as great filmmaking.