Sweepingly melodramatic, jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and massively sad and romantic, Far From Heaven is one of the best movies of the year. Maverick Todd Haynes (Safe, Velvet Goldmine), whose cinematic path is arguably the most unusual and under-appreciated of any young filmmaker, has recreated a Douglas Sirk melodrama with such impassioned fervor that he inverts the past.
Cathy Whitaker (a staggering, luminous Julianne Moore) is the perfect housewife with the perfect family in the perfect time (1950s). And while we’ve heard this story before and know it will crack, Haynes and Moore infuse a special sense of sincerity that makes the film almost heartbreaking from the first frame. Cathy’s life is shattered quickly when she learns her husband Frank (Dennis Quaid, in undoubtedly the performance of his career) is gay. As her marriage falls apart, Cathy falls for her black gardener, Raymond (Dennis Haysbert).
Haynes goes beyond pinpointing the stifling rigidity and racism of the 50s. By making the characters so whole and getting such magnificent performances from all of the players, he both broadens the predicaments to a universal sense of alienation and questions the “progress” we take for granted.
The movie is nearly flawlessly put together. The narrative is pristinely pieced from instances, and the color shifts and set design in the movie do more than just create an absolute mood—they are the visual soundtrack for the character’s psyches.
Far From Heaven is a tremendous achievement, free of irony or kitsch. Many critics have said that Haynes has made a movie that shouldn’t really exist. The fact that it does is a miraculous gift.