You can almost be assured of quality acting here in having both Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro play off each other as an unlikely couple who find strength in each other to overcome a major loss in their lives. To Audrey (Berry), David Duchovny's Brian Burke is the all-encompassing loving husband, who has a knack in raising up their kids, as well as the one who cuddles her to bed each night. But she shares her husband's time, to much of her dislike, with his best friend Jerry Sunborne (Del Toro), a recovering drug junkie who's known him since young, being the only person who cares for Jerry when everyone else shuns him.
But of course, the bulk of the movie dwells on how these 2 character adversaries have to come together to deal with the void left behind by a senseless street crime. And this of course will bring conflict which spices up the movie, as we discover how people deal with loss in their own way, sometimes beyond comprehension. For Audrey, she felt compelled to invite Jerry to stay at home, perhaps out of pity for his state, or maybe as a temporary father figure for her children to look up to. It's likely that because she knows that with him being her husband's best friend, he would probably rub off some anecdotes that he knows, to share with the family, especially since he had a fair share of time spent with Brian.
Plans do backfire, as she couldn't stand the thought of some of the stuff that Jerry knows through Brian's confiding in him, especially when it pertains to the little secrets about her children. And his being able to connect with the children at a snap of the fingers, do bring cause for concern too. But to Jerry, it's nothing more than opportunity to live out some semblance of a normal life as he embarks on a lonely journey to kick his addiction, and to experience the good stuff, almost perfect, of what he could have should he stay clean. I thought his character was unique in that there's an easy line to cross and exploit, but yet integrity says he doesn't do so. He knows his place, and doesn't do anything more that would hurt the family dynamics already shaken by a sudden departure.
It's quite a powerful drama as scenes start to unfold and the tension gets built up, usually with spur of the moments leading to unnecessary hurtful remarks being hurled. What I had enjoyed in the movie are the supporting characters from family and friends that make this movie, set in a close neighbourhood, all the more real. John Carroll Lynch, last since as a probable suspect in Zodiac, is that neighbour next door who comes by looking for a jogging partner, while Alison Lohman's Kelly also plays a recovering addict and almost unrecognizable because she ditched her blonde locks for a darker colour.
From grief and despair to a slow plodding towards new hope, Things We Lost in the Fire ignited during a scene around a dinner table in the last act. That scene alone stole the entire show, and brought to light the meaning of the title, as well as one of the most poignant moments in a movie I have seen in a long time. I like dinner table conversations, but this one took the cake in being honest, powerful and immensely moving. If I need a reason to like this movie, then that scene will be it. A conventional piece of drama, with great acting by Halle Berry and especially Benicio Del Toro, and definitely not to be missed by fans of either.