Far From Heaven (2002) [Outfest LA 2022] 

In 1957, a housewife who is facing a marital crisis becomes friends with her black handyman, something that gets the town talking. 

Written and directed by Todd Haynes, this now 20 years old film is one that approaches the feeling and position of otherness in a world that seems so calculated, so precise, so pre-decided. The film works with themes of racism and homophobia as well as the pressure of being the perfect housewife who has it all under control. The film takes these themes and never makes light of them, it shows life as it was for someone in the upper middle class coming face to face with a world that is cruel and unrelenting, a world that before things took a turn in her life was very welcoming to her and seemingly perfect. Now that her marriage is seeing issues that could put them at odds with their society and that she has made friends with someone seemingly forbidden, her life is not as simple as it used to be and she finally sees the world for what it is, one of cruelty and judgment on people based on arbitrary criteria that only serve cishet white men. Here, the film takes on all of this with the right touches of drama and a direct approach that works wonders to make the story and film work to their end. 

The cast here is strong with Julianne Moore leading, in a part that brought her an Oscar nom, as Cathy Whitaker, the woman at the center of everything. Her performance here is both strong and subtle, she gives Cathy life in the best way possible, making her a lady of her time, but also vulnerable, open-minded, and she shows how life affected women back in the 1950s, when their rights were not nearly as strong as they responsibilities. Her work here carries the film and gives it the emotional connection to the viewer it needs. Playing her husband Frank Whitaker is Dennis Quaid who gives his character depth and a sort of double personality depending on the situation, something that really adds to the film. The supporting cast including Dennis Haysbert, Patricia Clarkson, Viola Davis, and many more is incredible to watch. Haysbert comes off as a strong performer and one that knows his material and how to bring it to the screen with just the right subtle emotional charge. This is cast that was clearly well chosen and well directed, but also a cast that can act through fun and hard material. They show a respect for the time period and the struggles brought to the screen. 

Far from Heaven is not only well written, directed, and performed, but also absolutely stunning on the visual front. The décor, the wardrobe, every single piece put in front of the camera was clearly carefully selected after a thorough study of the time period. The cinematography by Edward Lachman is absolutely beautiful, giving the film life in a way that makes it perfectly late 1950s and then some. The film looks basically perfect from start to finish with an attention to details that makes it stand out over many other period pieces taken place around the same time. This is how you plan, execute, and shoot a 1950s-set film.  

Far From Heaven is a tour de force type of film, one that is exceptionally well crafted and brings a time period to the screen in a stunning manner. The writing and directing are on point, the way the issues of the time are approached, how it brings otherness up and how it manages it are both strong points here, and the performances are perfect for the material and for just about anything else really. This is a masterpiece of a film that 20 years post release still looks and feels like an important piece of cinema.