Considering that Imaginary Heroes starts off with a teenager's suicide and then follows what happens to his family in the following year, it's a surprisingly energetic film that refuses to send its characters through either easy therapeutic resolution or cinematically pretty depression. This is more about how people grieve in reality, how they keep on moving through the days and plowing through the grief. And though it can't avoid all the potential clichés that come into its path, this is a tale of suburban angst that can easily stand beside works like American Beauty and The Ice Storm, if not surpass them completely.
The feature directing debut of Dan Harris, the scriptwriting wunderkind behind X2 and a batch of upcoming superhero flicks (from Superman to The Fantastic Four), Imaginary Heroes is a breathtakingly assured piece of work. Notable are the shimmering cinematography and unusually nuanced performances from both veteran actors we tend to take for granted and several fresh, younger faces. It starts off with Matt Travis (Kip Pardue), a high school swimming legend who always hated swimming and so shoots himself in the head one night. Although we only really see him in retrospect, talked about in narration by his younger brother, Matt (Emile Hirsch), it's quickly obvious that Matt was the shining star of the family and so everything quickly goes to pot in his absence. The dad (Jeff Daniels) collapses into an unshaven, sullen drunk, and the sister (Michelle Williams) dashes back to the safe haven of college. Matt - the film's closest thing to a protagonist - buries everything deep, hiding all emotions from his best friend Kyle (Ryan Donowho) and girlfriend, breaking up with her after she keeps asking how he's feeling and why his body is covered in bruises.
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