Review By Frances Winston
Directed by: Sara Colangelo, – Starring: Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, Amy Ryan, Tate Donovan, Shunori Ramanathan, Laura Benanti
Available on Netflix September 3rd!
The 20th anniversary of the Twin Towers tragedy is looming large, and as difficult as it may be to believe that two decades have passed since the atrocity, this is quite a significant landmark. As such, there are a wealth of movies, documentaries, and TV shows, set to be released to mark it, such as this true-life drama.
While the title sounds more like a soap-opera set in the echelons of a wealthy family, it actually refers to the worth of a human life, which, as horrific as it sounds, was something that had to be decided, in order to appropriately compensate the families of the victims.
Keaton plays Ken Feinberg, the man charged with ensuring that people received fair compensation from the state. However, what he thinks will be a straightforward equation quickly becomes an exercise in empathy, when he realises that the system rewards stockbrokers with families, while penalising immigrants, service workers, and those in same-sex relationships. It also brings buried secrets to the surface for some of the families, which involve sensitive negotiating on Feinberg’s part. Widower turned activist, Charles Wolf (Tucci) proves a worthy adversary to his efforts, until they both realise that they are ultimately fighting for the same cause.
This is not an easy watch. Colangelo’s subdued direction ensures that the human cost of the tragedy is never downplayed or forgotten. However, she manages to avoid overloading this with sentiment, relying instead on the testimonies of the families to hit home, and you right in the feels.
Keaton and Tucci are excellent. Keaton in particular does a fantastic job portraying the inner turmoil this difficult role caused Feinberg. They are ably supported by a fantastic ensemble, and literally everyone brings their A-game.
This is an incredibly nuanced and thoughtful film. Some of the scenes are so subtle that you don’t even realise how much they’ve affected you until it’s over.
It never feels preachy, and instead lets the audience absorb the magnitude of the story, which was a reality for thousands of people in the aftermath of the tragedy.
There’s no sense of catharsis at the end – the victims are still dead, and the money does not replace them. Rather, it will leave you processing a system that can so easily narrow the worth of a life down to a dollar value, based on how important they feel they were to society.
An intense drama that will leave you with complicated emotions, this definitely deserves a few gongs come awards season.