The Emotional Arithmetic Mega Movie Page went live during the holidays back in 2013. I did not publish a posting about it then, choosing only to mention it briefly in a Byrne-ing News that was full of holiday updates and wallpapers.

This film deserves better.

I respect Emotional Arithmetic. And I enjoy it, too. That is not always my reaction to films, even Gabriel Byrne films. I appreciate each performance in this movie–there is a delicate balance in these portrayals that is often quite breath-taking. Paolo Barzman, the director, created a  remarkable adaptation of a very special and beautifully written book. There is drama, to be sure, and tragedy, with generous splashes of  ironic humor. The story takes its time, partly because it must slide from past to present to create the context, and partly because it is a tale of emotions, both expressed and hidden, and those layers require a pause now and then.

The screencap above, a snapshot of hilarity in the face of danger, is a counterpoint to this serious study of people who have survived one of the most horrendous events of the 20th century. Humor plays a big role in the movie, but love and healing are the core, and I cannot think of another film that treats the subject matter–survival–with such tenderness and understanding. What happens to people who live through these cataclysmic traumas? Emotional Arithmetic offers several examples of how life might be post-horror, for the survivors themselves, but also for family and friends who did not share the experience. Everyone is different. There is no single path. We are recalled to life in myriad ways, but we are recalled. And there is no insurance that the innocent bystanders will not be overwhelmed in the process…

I often think Gabriel Byrne must have had a most rewarding experience, working on this project. He was in Canada during the fall, a luscious time captured perfectly on screen, and acting with film giants Max Von Sydow and Christopher Plummer. Did he discuss Ingmar Bergman with Max? Did he bring up Plummer’s Tony-award-winning role in Barrymore? And how could he not reminisce with Susan Sarandon about Little Women? We will never know, but it is fun to consider what the set might have been like, in addition to all that gorgeous scenery and those lovely parts that each of them brought to life.

I loved the book by Matt Cohen, too. I can recommend both to you (the film diverges from the book in interesting ways, but only in terms of plot, not tone or meaning) with the highest praise and regard.

I hope you enjoy the Mega Movie Page for Emotional Arithmetic, which brings together trailers, other videos, promotional images, screencaps, interviews, reviews, and more. Many thanks to Angelle for her help in making the page possible!

Note: the original film title is Emotional Arithmetic; the DVD title is Autumn Hearts: A New Beginning.

Wallpaper by Stella

A note on the title of this posting:

“Recalled To Life” is the title of the first section of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Dr. Manette, who was imprisoned for many years in the Bastille, is finally being released, after many years. Now, he is an old man who has lost his mind. But he recovers. He overcomes the horror of that experience and goes on to live the rest of his life in peace. He was “recalled to life,” after savagery and suffering. Not everyone can answer that call. Some give in to nihilism and despair. But some do return to the living–a theme this film shares with Dickens’ masterpiece of the French Revolution.


  1. Verónica

    I’ve seen this movie. It touched me in special way because I passed the 2nd. World War and identified with some circumstances of the film. But people who are far from that War, after reading Stella’s presentation, must watch it, because in the way she tells the “tale” is an invitation to live, some way, a little part of what happened during that disastrous era.
    About actors acting, what can I say. Gabriel, as always was wonderful in the same way that Susan Sarandon, Max Von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, far from his performance in “The Sound of Music”, and Roy Dupuis (the same who worked in “Nikita” original).
    Definitely, this movie is highly recommended.

    • Thank you for your comments, my friend. Art can shed light on our experiences, making them more understandable to us and tangible to others who may not have shared them. I think this film accomplishes that. I’m so glad Gabriel took on this project. He makes Christopher a real person, and that means everything. <3

  2. Thanks for the reminder, Stella. Had never been able to get a copy of this film in Germany so far, found a Danish DVD in English right now and ordered it straight away.
    :-) Lucky Elf

    • Elf, Oh I am glad you can watch it soon! It really is a lovely and thought-provoking film, made shortly before Gabriel started working on IN TREATMENT. You are lucky to have found it finally! <3

  3. I really love this film. It has an impeccable cast, possibly the strongest ensemble cast Gabriel has worked with. They all play their roles with such sensitivity and empathy. And that beautiful autumn landscape that envelops the modern-day characters in browns, yellows, oranges and blue sky and river…What better contrast of this peaceful rural setting as the haven they all gather in —so far from the WWII Nazi internment camp of Drancy. The film resonates. The black and white segments in the camp are so moving in their simplicity. The child actors in both time sequences are so authentic and non-Hollywood. The life-long love story between Gabriel and Susan’s characters is my all-time favorite film relationship. It is poignant and tragic, and the climactic scene in the rain and barn between them is so perfect. In fact , every scene between them is perfect. If you haven’t seen it, go and find it. You won’t regret it.

    • Angelle, I often feel that you should be writing these articles. <3

      The film resonates, as you say. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You describe the film precisely and wonderfully.

      I, too, hope more people will see this film. It is exceptional in its intention and in its beauty.


    I LOVE this film, it is so emotional, like Veronica, it moves into me so much feelings by my grandfathers history. I found it in DVD, and I see it frequently. All the films of our Irishman have a message ….excellent fellow actor Susan Sarandon, I admire her so much too, wonderful film, the autumn of two people and a new beginning in their lives. My best wishes for all you ….

    • I am glad you can watch this film whenever you like, Dora!

      It is a touchstone for many, a reminder of the past and a vision of the future. <3

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