With the recent death of journalist Daniel Pearl in the Middle East, the threat of violence toward the media covering foreign war stories was made a reality for many Americans. The obvious danger that soldiers face on the front is clear, but from this action we can see that the violence does not exclude anyone.
“Harrison’s Roses” tells the story of a woman who is willing to risk her life to save the life of her husband. Andie MacDowell stars as the wife of an award winning photojournalist working for Newsweek who travels to war torn Yugoslavia in order to find him and bring him home. The film explores the horrors of war and the lengths one woman will go to for love.
Andie MacDowell beautifully portrays her character’s desperation when faced with the thought of living her life and raising her children without her husband. The perfection of her performance is unexpected coming from a customarily inept actor like MacDowell. The former model’s previous work has been disappointing to say the very least. This is not the case in “Harrison’s Roses” where she pulls off the unexpected and delivers a performance worthy of even the most seasoned artist. Her dedication to her husband pulls this story through what could easily become a film that is too harrowing and painful to watch.
The recent rash of war movies being pushed onto the public as of late can be more than overwhelming. Since the release of “Saving Private Ryan” the genre has come into a renaissance of sorts. With a whole new slant toward the realistic as opposed to the cartoonish, the audience is not rooting for the rifle anymore. In this film we are afforded the opportunity to see war from the perspective of the neutral journalist. The photojournalist’s job is not to engage in the fighting but rather to provide a living narrative while trying to stay out of harms way.
The cast consists almost entirely of actors who shine in character roles. The only well known star in the film is MacDowell. Adrien Brody and Elias Koteas portray two photographers following the fighting and chronicling the carnage as they go. Brody consistently delivers strong performances and does not disappoint in this piece. He portrays the dedication to this work necessary to risk life and limb for photo marvelously. Koteas is a consistently solid character actor whose previous works include Terrance Malick’s WWII film “The Thin Red Line.” Koteas portrays his character with his usual brand of honesty without compromising the integrity of the subject matter.
The only downfall to the film is the graphic and all too realistic violence. Director Elie Chouraqui spares nothing to show how far people will go in war. The realistic and horrible violence perpetrated by soldiers in wartime is almost impossible to watch. Had it not been for the great performances by the actors the film would have been completely unbearable to watch. When many of us read the accounts of war in far-off lands and look at the unbelievable images, thought is rarely given to the terror the journalist must feel while trying to tell a story.
The cast of this film takes a subject that could easily been over dramatized aka “Up Close & Personal” starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Redford and makes it beautiful and painful in a very poignant way. The harsh criticism that Andie MacDowell customarily receives for her work does not apply to this film. She has redeemed herself and proven that she can not only pull off a dramatic role but make it stand out as an incredible achievement.