I was watching Revolutionary Road on TV and just realized something: the film is a few scenes too long.
Consider the absolutely wrenching sequence the day after the major blow-out between the Wheelers. The blow-out itself is the culmination of a lot of pent-up frustration, catalyzed in part by some ruthless truth-telling by their supposedly insane dinner guest, John Givings.
To be honest with you, I found much of the dialogue in these scenes pretty… I guess the word I am looking for is stagey. Something not quite natural about its cadences. The actors all did an amazing job of delivering the lines, but I couldn’t help but feel that it might have worked better, had the director not spent so much of his time doing theatre.
None of these problems apply, however, to what happens on the following day. Frank comes down for breakfast and finds a completely subdued April in the kitchen. She seems to take an interest in his job, tells him to take pride in it, assures him that she doesn’t hate him… he doesn’t know what to make of it, but some instinct tells him not to look a gift horse in the mouth. Without that instinct, maybe he might have listened more carefully to what she wasn’t saying. I suppose we all see what we want to see.
After he leaves, she gives herself the freedom to break down. Then she makes a phone call to her neighbour who is minding the kids. She asks her to tell the children that… after all that has happened, it seems like she finds herself questioning her own love for them. Her neighbour, who is blissfully unaware of the turmoil raging on the other end of the phone, completes the thought in traditional fashion and assures her that she will tell the children. Throughout that conversation, you only see April’s side — not only does it keep the focus on what is important, it also serves as a statement on what we take for granted.
Now, our experience of watching countless films tells us that, whenever a major character passes on that kind of message to his/her children, something bad is going to happen. Sure enough, April gets a tub of hot water ready and prepares to abort her baby. I watch with growing dread as she carries the water up the stairs, lays out a couple of towels on the bathroom floor and slips out of her skirt. Then she closes the door, thank heavens.
I still cannot get over how powerful that entire sequence is, starting with the scene at the breakfast table. Winslet is fantastic in her restraint, trusting our intelligence to fill in what is required.
And the Mendes spoils it all by telling us what happens next, and how Frank and the others react. These scenes are well-written and acted, no doubt. But that is besides the point. Sometimes, we don’t need to know.
After having spoken so eloquently through the things left unsaid, could the film not have left a few more things out?