Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Dedicated to “all our loves departed or yet to arrive,” 2002’s Moonlight Mile undoubtedly poured forth from a place of personal pain for writer-director Brad Silberling — boyfriend to actress Rebecca Schaeffer when she was killed in 1989.
From real-life tragedy, Silberling crafted an occasionally roughshod drama that tackles the confusion and conflict that surrounds sudden death, unexpected love and unresolved tension — from a parade of casseroles and condolences to parents forced to reevaluate life after a daughter to whom they devoted everything has died.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon deliver a trio of terrific performances. Joe (Gyllenhaal) is a beleaguered bridegroom whose fiancée, Diana, is murdered days before their wedding. In the resultant limbo, Joe moves in with Diana’s parents, Ben (Hoffman), a real-estate agent, and Jojo (Sarandon), a writer.
Silberling lets their tangle play out with more toughness than tenderness, understanding some families entomb people before they’re really gone.
Although they mean well, Ben and Jojo thieve Joe’s life and time — replacing the child they’ve lost with him. It’s a burden he’s hesitant to bear but reluctant to reject, as loyalty to his “in-laws” clashes with stirring passions for a local barmaid (Ellen Pompeo, a fiery sparkplug).
Moonlight Mile concludes with a series of livable compromises, but it’s as much about the doubt and panic that linger after life’s plans scatter and persist even after they settle again. Moreover, it’s about the hardship of honoring the memory of someone from whom everyone is best off moving on.