SWEET NOVEMBER - ABOUT THE STORY
Advertising executive Nelson Moss is a self-absorbed and emotionally isolated man focused on his future, running from his past, and oblivious to the present. "He grew up poor, an only child whose parents are dead," says Keanu Reeves. "My take on him is that his father sold door-to-door and wasn't very good at it. Subconsciously, Nelson is trying to become the successful version of his father. But in manifesting that, he has shut off the part of himself that allows him to feel."
Until the day he meets Sara, a charming, fearless woman whose lust for life disrupts Nelson's safe, single-minded drive. "She is in touch and in tune with what's going on around her," says Charlize Theron, who garnered critical praise for her role in the Academy Award-nominated drama "The Cider House Rules." "Sara really knows what she wants out of life and how to live it to the fullest, and she has made it a priority to share that knowledge with other people. She's not scared to get close and intimate with strangers."
Director Pat O'Connor, internationally-acclaimed for such films as CIRCLE OF FRIENDS and INVENTING THE ABBOTTS explains, "We all go around with our little games and our camouflage, but Sara is smart and sees through the walls people build around themselves. And she has a hunch about Nelson."
Sara senses the vulnerable and wounded aspects of Nelson's character. "There's still a part of Nelson that is alive and Sara recognizes that," says Reeves. "She tells him that he's miserable. And Nelson says, 'No, I'm not miserable. I'm successful.' But once he slows down, he realizes that he is miserable."
"The fact that Sara sees something in Nelson is what makes her such a fabulous character," remarks producer Erwin Stoff. "She has an irresistible heart, and she knows that anyone as driven and motivated as Nelson isn't simply running toward something; he's also running from something."
Challenged by Nelson's outward impenetrability and broken inner spirit, Sara leads him on a journey of self-discovery during the month of November, after which they plan to go their separate ways. "Part of her process is that she doesn't spell everything out for Nelson," says Theron. "She wants to open the door and eventually let him continue the journey himself."
Sara gradually peels away the layers that Nelson uses to guard himself against intimacy. "She takes Nelson's clothes and his watch and cell phone and says 'Slow down and just be present and look around, look at life,'" Reeves says. "Being nurtured by her spirit wakes him up to what is important."
Nelson is also affected by an important force in Sara's life, her upstairs neighbor and trusted confidant Chaz, played by Jason Isaacs, who starred as the villain opposite Mel Gibson in the epic Revolutionary War drama THE PATRIOT. "Chaz and Nelson work in the same business, but the big difference between them is that for Chaz, business is just what he does for a living," Isaacs says. "Like Sara, he knows how to live life and he knows how to laugh."
At first, Nelson feels threatened by Chaz and his close relationship with Sara. "Nelson's fears are slightly allayed when they meet for the first time at Sarah's apartment," Isaacs explains. "Ultimately, Chaz and Nelson develop a bond. They both love Sara, and they both have her best interests at heart."
As their relationship progresses, Sara gives Nelson a gift he never expected. "She gives him insight and the ability to use that insight to see the world as it really is, rather than being driven on a very narrow path toward a kind of an ill-defined future based on material gain," O'Connor says. "She teaches him to communicate with other people. And he ends up learning about himself and therefore seeing life in a broader way."
But not everyone in Nelson's life is pleased with the impact Sara is having on Nelson, especially his parasitical colleague Vince, played by Greg Germann, who stars on TV's ALLY McBEAL as Ally's eccentric boss Richard Fish. "Vince is the quintessential bottom-feeder, the kind of guy who rides someone else's coattails to whatever success he can find," says Germann. "Once Nelson decides to detach himself from Vince, and from his previous style of business conduct, Vince realizes he'll have very little chance to rise to the top without him. Vince sees his future written on the wall and it says 'Bus Boy.'"
As driven as Nelson is by his demons, Sara is motivated by another set of very personal circumstances. "She has reasons for why she lives such an unconventional life," Theron reveals. "She's built this little world for herself with her own rules and she doesn't share them with anyone. Everyone who comes into her world just has to make peace with that and live by those rules."
Although it is not part of her agenda, Sara finds herself falling for Nelson. "He is part of a plan she has in order to live her life the way she wants," says O'Connor. "But Nelson becomes involved with Sara in a true way, and she involves herself with him in a way that she didn't expect."
Nelson is equally caught off guard by his feelings for Sara. "The love that grows between them opens up a whole new world for him," Reeves says. "He can smell the flowers. With love and appreciation of this other person, he becomes more human."
And in turn, Nelson changes Sara. "Sara realizes that everything she teaches him is not necessarily what she's done with her own life," says Theron.
Producer Deborah Aal notes that Nelson comes away from the experience with a more fulfilled life than he would have had without knowing Sara. "One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given is to make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes," says Aal. "At the end of the film I think everyone will leave with what Sara has given Nelson. I hope that people will see the world through Sara's eyes, as Nelson does."
Producer Steve Reuther concurs. "I am attracted to the moments in this story in which the characters are forced to find their better selves," Reuther says. "Love stories demand that kind of insight and courage. This is one of those movies."
"When the story begins, Nelson is a great fixer," observes Isaacs. "He throws money at a problem or hires someone to fix it. But by the end of the film, he realizes there are some things in life you can't throw money at, and you simply have to accept and make the best of your circumstances. That's what the film is about; seizing the moment and making the absolute most of every minute you're alive on this planet."
After seeing the film, "I hope the audience is overwhelmed by the beauty of life and its possibilities and its hardships," says Reeves. "Through our understanding of life's hardships, we're better to ourselves and better to those around us."