“Reign Over Me,” now available on DVD, is my favorite film so far in 2007. Powerful, haunting and profoundly moving, the film is a testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary healing potential of the human heart.
The challenge of healing our own hearts is at the soul of this story, which revolves around former college roommates Charlie (Adam Sandler) and Alan (Don Cheedle. They both became dentists, got married and started families, then lost track of each other.
Charlie’s wife, three daughters, and even the family dog were aboard one of the planes that hit the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. In an instant, Charlie lost his entire world. Traumatized, he quit his practice and disconnected from his memories, feelings, and everyone in his life who brings them to mind.
Alan by “chance” sees Charlie ride by one night on a scooter. He is stunned to see the deterioration in his old friend, and even more shocked when Charlie does not seem to even remember him.
Alan tries to reconnect his old friend with life itself, and in doing so he starts to confront his own distance from his daily life.
It’s so much easier to see someone else’s problems than it is to see our own, isn’t it? But when we deny those feelings, they don’t disappear. We eventually have no choice but to face them.
Unfortunately, “Reign Over Me” did not do well at the box office when it opened theatrically in February 2007. The subject matter may have distanced some, and the fact that Adam Sandler plays Charlie Fineman may have misled people about the tenor of the film.
That would be a true disservice to Sandler’s transcendent performance. He plays Charlie with heartbreaking tenderness and vulnerability, recalling two other actors whom people were accustomed to seeing in broad comedies: Jim Carrey in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and Will Ferrell in “Stranger Than Fiction.” Both films were brilliant, yet both underperformed with critics and at the box office. Great comic actors such as Jackie Gleason, Jerry Lewis, Tom Hanks, Sandler, Carrey, and Ferrell, have often been just as brilliant, or even more so, in straight dramatic roles.
Brilliantly written, directed and acted, “Reign Over Me” will resonate in my heart forever.