That old saying about an actor having a face the camera loves doesn't begin to cut it for Benicio Del Toro. In this intense drama of loss and recovery, Del Toro has a face the camera invades, practically boring holes in his skull to find what's inside. He's up to the assault. Just watching Del Toro's eyes provides an emotional fire Allan Loeb's script can't hope to match. The Oscar winner for Traffic is astoundingly good as Jerry Sunborne, a junkie who shows up at the funeral of his architect friend, Brian (the excellent David Duchovny), knowing that Brian's widow, Audrey (Halle Berry), hates his guts. The film, the first in English from acclaimed Danish director Susanne Bier (Open Hearts, Brothers, After the Wedding), pivots on the uneasy truce forged between Jerry, Audrey and her two children, Harper (Alexis Llewellyn), 10, and Dory (Micah Berry), 6. In flashbacks, we watch Brian subtly try to get Jerry through his addiction. Audrey takes a more direct approach, inviting Jerry to share her home and even her bed. Don't jump to erotic conclusions. Bier likes upturning clichés, especially a scene in which the family tries to evoke Brian in intangible ways, like his scent or his love for a Coppola mob movie recalled by his daughter as the one ring "that guy from Meet the Fockers." Berry excels as a woman impatient to see Jerry "accept the good." But Del Toro is the movie's force field. This is a performance you will not forget.
From The Archives Issue 286: March 8, 1979