A History of Violence (2005)
I was kicking myself the first time I missed this on T.V, knowing that it was by director David Cronenberg and with such a compelling plot. I had to look out for it again. And it was the worth the wait too. What seems to be an average family man who runs a small town cafe for residents who look out for each other takes on a new form when he has to defend his cafe from two armed men. For Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) his past is about to catch up with him. A life that at first is more a mistaken identity which is put upon him by the gangster boss Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) of the two who were earlier killed. Both the audience and characters are lead to seriously believe this all American family man who is just doing his bit to protect the people when the time calls for it.
Much like many of Cronenberg’s other films A History of Violence (2005) cranks up the tension in small increments, from the first violent act which seems to be disconnected from the rest of the film, which’s set in rural America, complete with apple pie and town sheriff. What we see as the violence increases that a families torn apart by the very thought that’s planted in their mind that the father has led another life. Even verging on a split personality which we see at times as bursts of violence which could easily be explained.
However our worst fears are confirmed when we see Joey Cusack emerge to the full, no longer holding back, yet to his family he still wants to remain the man who has been the father figure and husband to Edie Stall (Maria Bello) whose worlds turned upside down by this revelation that her life could be based on a lie. As he turns violent in sexual ways towards his wife, something she embraces for a short time, before being repulsed by the man she is with. Needing time to process the last few traumatic days of her life.
Whilst their son Jack Stall (Ashton Holmes) whose plagued by bullying at college has his own ways of defending himself, turning to self-deprecating humour hoping that’s thrown off-balance. With recent events things become more violent for him getting him into trouble, a licence for actions that no-one should really resort to. Also a sad fact of American school life that shows that even the weaker of us can be pushed only so far before snapping. There are limits we reach before we resort to violence. Violence that even suppressed from another life can become second nature again in a fight or flight situation.
Surrounded by a colourful cast, not your average Hollywood cast, except the likes of William Hurt from Tom/Joey’s past who comes back to haunt him at the end of the film. Resolutions need to made in order to make a clean break and move on or we carry as nothing ever happen, suppressing the events becoming a pale version of ourselves. A new lifes made but at what expense 20 years later. A powerful film that is more accessible much like The Fly (1986) as wordy as it was it was still engaging to a wider audience as an obsession can destroy a person’s life and those around him if no self-controls used. A History of Violence shows how even in small town American you never really know who you are living with, your neighbours, at times we can take someone at face value for who they are without knowing their past. Unlike Cosmopolis (2012) which really alienated me with the intelligent dialogue which became more complex as the film went on.
Made during a time of suspicion among the world to the Muslim community after the 9/11 attacks, we start to see people in a different less trusting light. Thank goodness this is a film, it’s not possible to live in a 24/7 world of suspicion where those you least suspect could be capable of terrible acts. Most of the world’s population are law-abiding good-natured people. Who when we see or discover another person to be who they didn’t seem to be shocking and life altering. Shaking up their lives and those around them. The truth can be dangerous when hidden and revealed, it just depends what the truth is.