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Film Review: Reign Over Me (2007)

“Reign Over Me,” written and directed by Mike Binder and starring Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle, is a film about grief—the inconsolable grief that comes from losing the loves of your life unexpectedly and without warning. It’s also about the power of friendship and the important bonds people make that bring meaning to their lives.

Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) had a wonderful life. He was a successful dentist, happily married, living in New York City with his wife and three young daughters. He never had any reason to question his existence. Perhaps he was even guilty of taking his fortune for granted. Then, one day in September 2001 his family boarded a flight to Los Angeles without him, and the plane went down as part of the 9/11 terrorist’s plot. In that defining moment, Charlie lost everyone dear to him. Their tragic deaths haunt him now, and he can no longer maintain his life as it was. He is a ghost, drifting in and out of scenes without a soul. In a stellar performance, Adam Sandler shows us a man who once had everything but who now has nothing but grief.

Charlie’s college roommate, Don Cheadle, has been thinking of Charlie ever since he read about the tragic event. Perhaps because he senses his own growing complacency toward his family, he is obsessed with Charlie’s loss of his. He sees Charlie on the streets and reaches out to him. The rest of story unfolds as their friendship grows.

This movie is the antithesis of a high-speed action thriller, and yet it is an eloquent example of high drama. Reminiscent of the subtle but powerful dramas like “Ordinary People” or “Terms of Endearment,” the movie is carthartic. The suspense in the film comes not from what people do as much as from what they don’t do. Charlie’s life is the consequence of inaction and repression—which are not the easiest subjects to portray on screen. Mike Binder does it masterfully.

You may be surprised by how long this movie stays with you after you leave the theater.

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