John Skillpa (Cillian Murphy), a quiet bank clerk living in tiny, 1950s Peacock, Neb., prefers to an invisible existence. This might have to do with John’s secret: he has another personality no one knows about, a woman name Emma who each morning does his chores and cooks him breakfast before he starts his day. Then, in a moment, everything changes. While hanging laundry, a train caboose gets disconnected and crashes in the yard near Emma. People around rush to her aid, and having never seen her, assume she’s John’s wife. John’s life, very secure in unusual routing, is suddenly spinning out of control. Directed and co-written by Michael Lander (Solid Waste).
Rating: 7 out of 10
Lander brings a fascinating character, or depending on your viewpoint – characters – that are full of quirks, depth without saying too much, humanity, pain, and anxiety. He uses that foundation of depth to build an interesting movie that left me with a tight chest and a spinning stomach.
This script is brought to life by a great cast that includes Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins, The Wind That Shakes the Barley), Ellen Page (Juno), Academy Award-winner Susan Sarandon, Josh Lucas (A Beautiful Mind), and Keith Carradine (TV’s ‘Dexter’). Murphy was exceptional at delivering a man with multiple personalities — a tightly wound, introverted John and the sweet, thoughtful and personable Emma. The film opens with the train crash and moves quickly into the life of John and Emma. We learn about the world he creates with his two personalities — Emma leaves John notes of errands to run and leaves meals while John acts as if he’s never talked with people that Emma has already talked to. The two personalities clash over helping people, the investigation surrounding the train station, and the interaction with people. The suspense comes from never knowing if John will get caught.
But that’s where script problems stem. The director asks us to take some leaps of faith. No one in town ever suspects they are the same person. However, part of the anxiety the viewer feels is wondering if John will be revealed as Emma. It’s a tiny town and both Emma and John interact with a very small group of people; his boss, the mayor and his wife, and Maggie, played nicely by Page. This element, though, is distracting from other parts of the film, like a political rally Emma plans in the backyard of John’s house, a place he guards with the utmost of secrecy.
There are some distractions with the plot, but the suspense, direction, character development and acting are strong enough to carry the movie.