Life Before her Eyes
House Church Central Goes to the Movies

Magnolia Pictures and 2929 Productions, produced by Chase Bailey, Mike Upton, Couper Samuelson, and Ian McGloin. Directed by Vadim Perelman, music by James Horner. Rated R.

Sadly, few will consider viewing this movie once they understand that it is centered around a school shooting incident. But it is a beautifully constructed film with a twist and a theme that invites thought and discussion. And don't miss the twist, as many reviewers have -- it forces you to re-interpret everything you've see up to that point. And it survives the critical test of any movie with such a twist: you can watch it a second time and discover that the filmmakers were playing fair.

The film introduces two high-school girls with opposite values who become friends. Why? Perhaps each has a fascination about those who think differently. The first girl, Diana (Evan Rachel Wood) has chosen a can't-wait-to-grow-up path of loose living, and the second girl, Maureen (Eva Amurri), attends a charismatic Christian church and lives a clean life. So we have (in words framed by Diana) the "Virgin and the Whore." The two girls face a crisis together and have to make life and death choices based on faith, the way they view their futures, and their mutual friendship.

Until you have viewed the film, I suggest that you don't read further. Consider this your "spoiler alert."

The twist in the film lies in how one interprets the scenes in the film that feature Uma Thurman as the adult Diana. We know that Diana is fascinated with life (the film is filled with life images of plants and insects, and we see her in conversation with her teacher in science class), so the adult Diana surrounds herself with beauty, has a cute daughter very much like herself, a professor husband, and all the suburban trimmings. But the filmmaker surprises us with jarring mistakes -- birds that come and go abruptly, wild anachronisms, and other hints that tell us that something is very wrong with these adult-phase images. When the twist takes place, we discover that the adult-Diana scenes are not real at all -- they are the way that the young Diana imagines her future in the last seconds of her life.

The rest room scene is given to us little-by-little as the film progresses. A crazed student who has already killed dozens of their fellow classmates, confronts the two girls with his automatic weapon. He lays down the rule, and that rule is final and must be taken seriously for the film to make sense: One of the girls will die and one will survive. He invites the two girls to participate in this terrible choice.

The first to speak is Maureen. Probably based on her Christian understanding, she tentatively volunteers to be the one to die. Diana is overwhelmed and shocked by this, and it is at this point that the film switches back to the life of adult Diana and we begin to glimpse the way that she envisions her future. Already burdened with the guilt of her recent abortion, she imagines the unborn child as her daughter "Emma," who is already following her path of bad behavior. Her imagined professor husband presents a lecture with the phrase "imagine our future selves" (one of the biggest hints in the film). As we return to the final rest room scene, she has completed her evaluation of her future and realizes that her life is a mess and is going nowhere. She begs to be the one to die, and the shooter abruptly kills her and then himself.

This is a film that you will be thinking about well after the credits roll. Both women decide to die for their friend, but have different motives. Maureen's motive is based on her faith (is this a correct Christian response?). Diana's motive is based on her "life before her eyes," her imagination that extrapolates the path she has already taken. Is she actually being more pious than Maureen? Those are some of the questions that are sure to arise when this beautiful film is discussed in the community of faith.

And don't miss the special features on the Blu-ray edition, including the remarkable casting tape of Eva Amarri.

Order DVD from

Order Blu-Ray from

Search Movies
Title Search:
Keyword Search:

Return to Movies Page

Return to Resources