Nelson Moss (KEANU REEVES) and Sara Deever (CHARLIZE THERON) have nothing in common except an hour spent in DMV hell. She's a charming spirit who brings out the best in men. He's a workaholic executive whose only intimate relationship is with the bottom line...until he meets Sara.
Intrigued by each other, but not quite ready to commit, they settle on a rather unconventional courtship: a one-month trial, after which they'll go their separate ways. No expectations. No pressure. No strings attached.
What neither of them counts on is falling in love.
Advertising executive Nelson Moss is a self-absorbed and emotionally isolated man focused on his future, running from his past, and oblivious to the present. "He grew up poor, an only child whose parents are dead," says Keanu Reeves. "My take on him is that his father sold door-to-door and wasn't very good at it. Subconsciously, Nelson is trying to become the successful version of his father. But in manifesting that, he has shut off the part of himself that allows him to feel."
Until the day he meets Sara, a charming, fearless woman whose lust for life disrupts Nelson's safe, single-minded drive. "She is in touch and in tune with what's going on around her," says Charlize Theron, who garnered critical praise for her role in the Academy Award-nominated drama "The Cider House Rules." "Sara really knows what she wants out of life and how to live it to the fullest, and she has made it a priority to share that knowledge with other people. She's not scared to get close and intimate with strangers."
Director Pat O'Connor, internationally-acclaimed for such films as "Circle of Friends" and "Inventing the Abbotts," explains, "We all go around with our little games and our camouflage, but Sara is smart and sees through the walls people build around themselves. And she has a hunch about Nelson."
Sara senses the vulnerable and wounded aspects of Nelson's character. "There's still a part of Nelson that is alive and Sara recognizes that," says Reeves. "She tells him that he's miserable. And Nelson says, 'No, I'm not miserable. I'm successful.' But once he slows down, he realizes that he is miserable."
"The fact that Sara sees something in Nelson is what makes her such a fabulous character," remarks producer Erwin Stoff. "She has an irresistible heart, and she knows that anyone as driven and motivated as Nelson isn't simply running toward something; he's also running from something."
Challenged by Nelson's outward impenetrability and broken inner spirit, Sara leads him on a journey of self-discovery during the month of November, after which they plan to go their separate ways. "Part of her process is that she doesn't spell everything out for Nelson," says Theron. "She wants to open the door and eventually let him continue the journey himself."
Sara gradually peels away the layers that Nelson uses to guard himself against intimacy. "She takes Nelson's clothes and his watch and cell phone and says 'Slow down and just be present and look around, look at life,'" Reeves says. "Being nurtured by her spirit wakes him up to what is important."
Nelson is also affected by an important force in Sara's life, her upstairs neighbor and trusted confidant Chaz, played by Jason Isaacs, who starred as the villain opposite Mel Gibson in the epic Revolutionary War drama "The Patriot." "Chaz and Nelson work in the same business, but the big difference between them is that for Chaz, business is just what he does for a living," Isaacs says. "Like Sara, he knows how to live life and he knows how to laugh."
At first, Nelson feels threatened by Chaz and his close relationship with Sara. "Nelson's fears are slightly allayed when they meet for the first time at Sarah's apartment," Isaacs explains. "Ultimately, Chaz and Nelson develop a bond. They both love Sara, and they both have her best interests at heart."
As their relationship progresses, Sara gives Nelson a gift he never expected. "She gives him insight and the ability to use that insight to see the world as it really is, rather than being driven on a very narrow path toward a kind of an ill-defined future based on material gain," O'Connor says. "She teaches him to communicate with other people. And he ends up learning about himself and therefore seeing life in a broader way."
But not everyone in Nelson's life is pleased with the impact Sara is having on Nelson, especially his parasitical colleague Vince, played by Greg Germann, who stars on TV's "Ally McBeal" as Ally's eccentric boss Richard Fish. "Vince is the quintessential bottom-feeder, the kind of guy who rides someone else's coattails to whatever success he can find," says Germann. "Once Nelson decides to detach himself from Vince, and from his previous style of business conduct, Vince realizes he'll have very little chance to rise to the top without him. Vince sees his future written on the wall and it says 'Bus Boy.'"
s driven as Nelson is by his demons, Sara is motivated by another set of very personal circumstances. "She has reasons for why she lives such an unconventional life," Theron reveals. "She's built this little world for herself with her own rules and she doesn't share them with anyone. Everyone who comes into her world just has to make peace with that and live by those rules."
Although it is not part of her agenda, Sara finds herself falling for Nelson. "He is part of a plan she has in order to live her life the way she wants," says O'Connor. "But Nelson becomes involved with Sara in a true way, and she involves herself with him in a way that she didn't expect."
Nelson is equally caught off guard by his feelings for Sara. "The love that grows between them opens up a whole new world for him," Reeves says. "He can smell the flowers. With love and appreciation of this other person, he becomes more human."
And in turn, Nelson changes Sara. "Sara realizes that everything she teaches him is not necessarily what she's done with her own life," says Theron.
Producer Deborah Aal notes that Nelson comes away from the experience with a more fulfilled life than he would have had without knowing Sara. "One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given is to make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes," says Aal. "At the end of the film I think everyone will leave with what Sara has given Nelson. I hope that people will see the world through Sara's eyes, as Nelson does."
Producer Steve Reuther concurs. "I am attracted to the moments in this story in which the characters are forced to find their better selves," Reuther says. "Love stories demand that kind of insight and courage. This is one of those movies."
"When the story begins, Nelson is a great fixer," observes Isaacs. "He throws money at a problem or hires someone to fix it. But by the end of the film, he realizes there are some things in life you can't throw money at, and you simply have to accept and make the best of your circumstances. That's what the film is about; seizing the moment and making the absolute most of every minute you're alive on this planet."
After seeing the film, "I hope the audience is overwhelmed by the beauty of life and its possibilities and its hardships," says Reeves. "Through our understanding of life's hardships, we're better to ourselves and better to those around us."
"Angel Eyes" is a story about a seemingly unlikely couple who cross paths under life-threatening circumstances as though they are destined not only to meet but to save each other's lives. Not once, but twice.
Officer Sharon Pogue is an excellent cop. "She's tough and she doesn't compromise," explains director Luis Mandoki, "She will do whatever it takes to do the right thing, regardless of personal cost to herself." Assigned to a high-crime district in the South Side of Chicago, her job puts her into danger on a daily basis - arresting drug dealers, confronting armed criminals, breaking up fights. The intense anger that often shows through her professional exterior in the face of such volatile situations leads her partner and friend Robby (Terrence Howard) to suspect she was well-acquainted with violence long before she ever put on a uniform. But it's not something she chooses to talk about.
Sharon's dedication to her job does little to compensate for the fact that she has no personal life. She has been estranged from her family for many years. Disconnected from them and from life in general, Sharon fills her days with work and her nights with her private regrets.
"She once took a position and is now continuing to pay the price for it," explains screenwriter Gerald DiPego. "Exposed to violence early in her life, she is now covering her hurt with anger. Nevertheless, she longs for the family that has shut her out."
Somewhere in the same neighborhood a man who goes by the name of Catch is living his own half-life. A strange, haunted soul who sleeps in an empty apartment, he spends his days dispensing little gifts of goodwill to anyone in need. If it starts to rain and he notices a car window open, Catch will roll it up; if a stranger passes by, Catch will offer a smile. Twice a week he delivers groceries to a disabled woman named Elanora Davis (Shirley Knight). He and Elanora exchange the same light banter every time he stops by but she has learned not to ask him the kinds of questions he doesn't want to answer.
To most people who encounter him, Catch is an odd but harmless figure. To some, he appears dangerous, suspiciousthey wonder what he is up to. But Catch is indifferent to the reactions he elicits. He moves through the landscape in a kind of existential daze, performing his services automatically as though this is the only thing he was meant to do. Yet he seems to derive no real pleasure from it.
"He's actually stumbled onto something," says DiPego. "On the one hand, certainly he's in denial, trying to escape his pain, but his traumatic experience also triggered in him an appreciation for the preciousness of life and how important it is that we love each other, even strangers on the street. Out of that awakening comes these little acts of kindness."
Like Sharon, Catch has no personal life.
"He's just applying a Band-Aid," says Mandoki of Catch's behavior. "He's keeping a lid on his demons as Sharon does with hers. It's only when they fall in love and then risk losing that love that they are forced to examine who they really are, present and past."
"They've just come together and formed a relationship but it's still tentative," says James Caviezel, who portrays Catch. "They're still not willing to give up to each other the stuff they're scared to reveal."
The story is about "the conflict between isolation and connection," says DiPego. "We become isolated because we're afraid of opening up to each other, especially these days. On the other hand, there's a longing inside of us to connect. I think our salvation lies in keeping connected."
When Sharon learns that her parents, Josephine (Sonia Braga) and Carl (Victor Argo) are planning a big party to celebrate the renewal of their wedding vows and she has not been invited, she reaches a crisis. At the same time, Sharon's investigations into her new lover's background bring up issues for him that he would do anything to avoid - even if it means never seeing her again.
After years of dealing with their pain in the only way they knew how, Sharon and Catch must make some difficult decisions and risk losing each other if they are going to move forward and reclaim their lives.