Far from Heaven is a strange film set in a place called Hartford in 1957 and it really does look like it. It’s melodramatic – as all 1950s movies should be – and it’s got that feeling (you could say retro as the look is very in at the moment) which makes you think, for some reason, that Formica is the path to happiness for us all.
Cathy and Frank are a successful couple living in a well-to-do house with successful friends and the appearance of a respectable, 50s suburban family life. She lunches and hosts parties, the maid looks after the children and he is a top salesman. The family, however, is rocked when Cathy (Julianne Moore) catches Frank (Dennis Quaid) in a passionate embrace with another man. This repressed homosexuality eventually wrecks their marriage and Cathy finds comfort in the friendship of Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert) – a black man in a time when white men and black men could not ride in the same part of the bus.
The film is certainly moving and there are some scenes where you see and feel the emotional trauma that the pair of them go through. The reaction of the middle-classes is an insight into what, for me, seems like a different world. It’s played well and the three leads should all be praised for their performances. Far and Heaven addresses difficult issues in an interesting way but the 50s styling allows you to distance yourself from the feelings and opinions of the characters. I suspect, that some of the fear and prejudice still lies beneath many and this film won’t make people address them.
Some of the scenes seem too forced, stylised or stereotypical to be carried off with believability. Having said that, it’s an enjoyable film and one I would recommend.