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An Unfinished Life

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Lasse Hallström
Produced by Leslie Holleran
Alan Ladd, Jr.
Joe Roth
Bob Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein
Written by Mark Spragg
Virginia Korus Spragg
Starring Robert Redford
Jennifer Lopez
Morgan Freeman
Music by Deborah Lurie
Cinematography Oliver Stapleton
Editing by Andrew Mondshein
Studio Revolution Studios
Distributed by Miramax Films
Release date(s) September 9, 2005 (2005-09-09)
Running time 108 minutes
Country Germany
United States
Language English
Budget $30 million
Gross revenue $18,618,284

An Unfinished Life is a 2005 drama film directed by Swedish director Lasse Hallström, and based on the Mark Spragg novel of the same name. The film stars Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, and Morgan Freeman. It is the story of a Wyoming rancher (Redford) who must reconcile his relationship with his daughter-in-law (Lopez) and granddaughter, after they show up unexpectedly at his ranch and ask to stay with him and his disabled best friend and neighbor (Freeman).

While set in Wyoming, the movie was actually filmed in Canada. Reviews of the film have been mixed, with many critics praising the acting rapport of Redford and Freeman while panning the predictability of the well-trodden storyline. The aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 53% "fresh" (or positive) rating among the 127 professional critics compiled by the site. [1]



One year ago, a wild bear stole a calf from Mitch (Morgan Freeman) and Einar (Robert Redford)'s ranch. The two friends attempted to save the calf, but the bear viciously attacked Mitch - and because Einar was drunk, he failed to save him from serious injury. The bear escaped into the mountains.

A year later, Mitch's wounds still cause him constant pain. Einar cares for Mitch daily, giving him morphine injections, food and friendship. He leans his guilt on emotional crutches, while Mitch struggles to walk with a cane. The bear later returns to forage for food in town - and around the same time, Einar's long-lost daughter-in-law Jean (Jennifer Lopez) shows up on his doorstep.

Sheriff Crane Curtis (Josh Lucas) captures the bear and displays him in the town zoo. Likewise, Jean and her daughter Griff (Becca Gardner) move in with Einar and Mitch. Einar's son, Griffin, moved away and married Jean years ago, causing a rift in the family that snapped when Griffin died in a car accident. Tension mounts between Einar and Jean because both are still grieving for Griffin.

Since Griffin died, Jean has fallen into a series of abusive relationships. She moved in with Einar to escape her latest affair, Gary (Damian Lewis), but like the bear, her past will return to haunt her. Jean slowly falls in love with Sheriff Curtis, but little Griff can't open up to him or trust him because of Jean's bad experiences.

Jean starts working at a local coffee shop. There she befriends Nina, another waitress (Camryn Manheim), who helps her understand Einar's gruff ways and dark past.

Tensions in the family continue to build. One night, Gary arrives to harass Jean and Griff. He and Einar have an explosive confrontation that pushes Einar to the brink.

Einar returns to the ranch and demands that Jean tell him how Griffin died. Jean says they flipped a coin to determine who would drive -- she lost. At 3 a.m., the two tired souls set out for the last leg of their trip. Jean fell asleep at the wheel. The car flipped six times. Griffin died, but Jean survived and discovered she was pregnant with Griff. When he learns the truth about why his son was ripped from him too soon, Einar says they'll have to talk about Jean moving out. Jean says she's through talking. The next morning she takes Griff with her and leaves. Griff, who loves her grandfather as the first strong male figure in her life, runs back to the ranch alone. Einar and Mitch teach her to be a real Wyoming cowgirl.

The movie ends with Mitch insisting that Einar set the bear who handicapped him free, although the plan does not go off without a hitch. Einar lands in the hospital, where he and Jean attempt to reconcile. Einar invites Jean to come back and live with him and Griff. Mitch survives a peaceful confrontation with the bear from his past. It flees to the mountains where it belongs.

Gary makes one last attempt to drag Jean and Griff back "home" - this ends with Einar beating him up and tossing him on a bus out of town.

In the final scene, Einar affectionately talks with one of his cats - who throughout the whole movie he coldly ignored. Griff then invites Sheriff Curtis for lunch. All is well as Mitch narrates the last seconds of the movie, describing his dreams of flying above the earth to Einar.


Release and reception

Critical reaction

The film received moderate reviews. Rotten Tomatoes has a certified 53% fresh rating.[2]

Box office

An Unfinished Life did not open well; it opened at number 16 in its limited release opening weekend with $1,008,308. In its second weekend, with a wider release, the film opened at number 11 with $2,052,066.[3] Despite its $30 million budget, the film made a meager $18,618,284 worldwide by the time of its closing.


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