Indeed, until it had to be shackled with Hollywoodisms, Things We Lost in the Fire is a deeply somber work that draws its humanity out of its own melancholy. Of course, it can't stick to its guns, so if you're like me and think it was moving in the right direction before, you wonder why Bier put so much effort into it for 90-plus minutes.
Films about recovery, generally speaking, have to have the recovery. Otherwise, they're Leaving Las Vegas. Berry is recovering from the sudden death of her husband (David Duchovny). Del Toro is the late husband's best friend, struggling mightily with heroin addiction.
Forget the title; there's no fire in the film. It's referenced, but it's just a title. Remember, though, the characterization of Benicio Del Toro when you see it. I hesitate to call it a performance because I don't see someone performing, but rather an actor living and breathing as a character. All the gestures resonate as the recovering addict coming to terms and coming out of a haze and not Del Toro playing a junkie.
Berry has displayed a raw edge before, and she won an Oscar for it. She comes close to it again, but seems too guarded, as if she's working with a net. As her children, now left with burning questions about death that meet the everyday childhood curiosity about life head-on, Alexis Llewellyn and Micah Berry, are incredibly strong in more limited roles.
Oddly, the Hollywoodisms described earlier undo Things We Lost in the Fire. All the new additions get in the way of the rest of the film by trying to clean up a mess that isn't there.