The High Cost of Living: A Not So Perfect Guardian Angel (2010)

Posted: May 19, 2012 in Drama

Nathalie is a simple woman, excited to be awaiting her first child. With a husband who works a lot, she finds herself at home alone often. One evening, she begins to experience cramping and worries that she is going into premature labor. After she is unable to get her husband on the phone, she calls for a cab to get to the hospital. At the same time, Henry Welles, a drug-dealing, misguided man, turns the wrong way down the street and hits Nathalie with his car. When Nathalie wakes up in the hospital, she discovers that she is recovering from a concussion and the child died in her womb. Distraught and at odds with her husband, she ventures out and enters into a bar. In an act of chivalry, Henry steps in to defend her from some unaware patrons and begins to develop a relationship with her. While she stays with him, Henry attempts to reconcile his actions with a need to care for his new houseguest.

Starring: Zach Braff (Henry Wells), Isabelle Blais (Nathalie), Patrick Labbe (Michel), Julian Lo (Johnny), Aime Lee (Wai Lin), Pierre Gendron (Detective Lambert), Sean Lu (Kenny)

Quickly becoming the king of melancholy films, Zach Braff continues to exhibit a darker side of film. His character, Henry, is part of the hidden side of society, making a living on people’s addictions. In a moment of panic, he takes a coward’s approach by fleeing the scene and exhibits the difficulty of attempting to shake the negative feelings. Isabelle Blais highlights some of the stages of grief, in particular depression and small moments of anger. Her avoidance of dealing with her situation is the most engaging element of the film. Her husband, played by Patrick Labbe, may represent a man focused on providing for his family but also exhibits how that focus can be distracting from showing real care for one’s spouse. Julian Lo, serving as Braff’s young friend, plays the role of a kid who looks up to an adult willing to meet him on his level. Lo also shows his devotion to his friend and a willingness to sacrifice regardless of his own feelings about the actions.


As Deborah Chow’s first feature film, The High Cost of Living examines the choices people make and the experiences that follow. Henry lived on the edge of society, though his personality was one of support and kindness. While making a drug run after getting a phone call at the club, he let himself get distracted at the wrong moment, crashing him into his painful, rocky future. Concerned for the well-being of Nathalie, he seeks out a way to discover who she was and whether she was okay. The relationship was one of two different perspectives: Nathalie trying to escape the loveless existence of her marriage and Henry trying to seek redemption for his horrible actions. Nathalie appeared to be unaware of Henry’s motives until the individual conflicts finally collided but she seemed to be very forgiving of his choice of career.


The film’s main focus, even with the complicated relationship between Henry and Nathalie, seemed to be more about the journey of Nathalie’s personal struggles with feelings of loss. Before the accident, she had feelings of abandonment, but generally was able to let it go with a child in her future. The accident eliminated those plans and caused her to carry around her pain until she could schedule an appointment to remove her stillborn child. With the pain of injuries and loss of her child, she quickly became aware of the difference in her commitment to her marriage against her husband’s. Her struggles with dealing with her situation extended to a number of avoidance and coping methods, including failing to shower or change her shirt to avoid seeing the scarring on her belly and drinking alone even with her appearing to still be carrying a healthy child. The time with Henry allowed her to let go of some of the stress, but with a falseness of Henry’s withholding of the whole story.

This film maintains a fairly morose feeling, even during its lighter moments, but does a great job with exhibiting Nathalie’s inner conflict and tension. It is difficult to find relief in the story, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5


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