November (2004) – movie review

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Movie Review by Vivienne Messenger

Starring: Courteney Cox, James LeGros, Michael Ealy, Nora Dunn, Anne Archer

Director: Greg Harrison

A thought provoking psychological thriller, NOVEMBER could give you headaches afterwards like our heroine, photographer Sophie Jacobs (Courteney Cox) is suffering from throughout the movie. Why? Because this is a very confusing film and in trying to unravel it may you may well be left mystified. But if I’ve understood this correctly the ending is tragic and depressing.

Split into three parts – Denial, Despair and Acceptance – the story is retold in three different versions, sometimes in flashback, but is it being told in reality or the subconscious?

The film opens with Sophie driving back home from taking her boyfriend Hugh (James LeGros) to a Chinese restaurant and stopping outside a late night convenience store. Hugh obligingly goes off to buy her some chocolate. Whilst inside though he is the victim of a random violent robbery, shot and killed along with the store owner and his son. Sitting outside in the car, Sophie listens to the radio but you should know that she has had a fling with Jesse (Michael Ealy), a co-worker at the college where she teaches photography, hence her guilty conscience. What is also revealed as the film progresses is that she starts to see a psychologist (Nora Dunn) about her headaches and anxiety and that though she meets her mother (played nicely by Anne Archer) there’s a friction between them and Sophie always seems a little curt and at odds with her.

But this version of events alters three times. The first two versions or parts – Denial and Despair – leave you feeling bewildered as if trying to piece together a jigsaw puzzle that just won’t fit neatly together. It’s not until the third and final part – Acceptance – that vague clues as to what is really happening here begin to slightly unravel. There’s an empty chair where the psychologist is usually seated. The college library is strangely deserted and void of people. Sophie clearly chooses to be with Hugh in preference to Jesse when she meets him in a school corridor. She agrees with her mother’s suggestions and anticipates her mother’s actions. These all lead up to the final version of the shooting which claims the three aforementioned victims. But now there’s a fourth… Sophie herself!

But the unsettling thing about NOVEMBER is that it has no really clear ending. Does she tragically die or not? I assume so but it’s left up to the audience to deduce rather too unsatisfactorily and makes the whole premise even more sad and depressing. What we are witnessing is her subconscious trying to reshuffle and tidy up past events, going through denial, despair and finally her acceptance that she’s been shot and that circumstances are now beyond her control.

But then again I could be wrong as her fortune cookie said “It’s never too late to change your life’s course” and Hugh’s said “Depart not from the path of your life”.

Personally if I’d been in her place I think I would have been cursing myself for satisfying my indulgence by fatefully stopping for a bar of chocolate just after I’d been out for a meal at a restaurant and ending up being in the wrong place at the wrong time through being greedy.

3 out of 6 stars