Heavy-hitting social issue dramas infrequently have enough subtlety to simultaneously tackle personal, existential concerns. The Architect, based on a play by Scotsman David Grieg, is the rare movie that focuses on the essential way that the emotional and structural intersect.
Anthony LaPaglia plays the titular character, a man who defines himself by his professional success and picture-perfect family life. Ensconced in the shiny warmth of his upscale Chicago suburb, he is confronted with harsh reality in the form of Tonya Neeley (an impressive Viola Davis), a single mother and activist fighting for new housing in her drug-ridden community. In order to get city approval to demolish and rebuild the projects, Tonya must appeal for the signature of the man who designed it, our eponymous draftsman.
As their relationship grows, affecting the architect and his ennui-filled wife (a stunning-as-usual Isabella Rossellini), a new sense of reality and context jars the suburbanites out of complacency. Intelligent without being lofty, emotional without being melodramatic, The Architect shows how beautiful writing can work in balance with well-executed cinematic form.
Opens December 1