A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
There is one man at the wake who doesn't seem to belong. Scruffy, unshaven, smoking, uncomfortable with himself, he draws aside from the affluent friends of the deceased. Yet he was the dead man's best friend. Jerry Sunborne (Benicio Del Toro) was never approved of by Audrey Burke (Halle Berry), the new widow, but she has invited him to the funeral all the same. She knows her husband would have wanted her to.
As "Things We Lost in the Fire" opens, Audrey was married for 11 years to Brian Burke (David Duchovny, seen in several flashbacks), and they were happy years, giving her two children, now 10 and 6, and a big house in an upscale suburb. Brian was a "genius" at real estate deals, her lawyer tells her, and she has inherited a fortune. But her loneliness haunts her. In a way, it was Jerry's "fault" that her husband died, because he visited his friend's flophouse on his birthday and was killed in a senseless street crime while trying to stop a stranger from beating his wife.
But that was like Brian, being loyal to his friend and playing a good Samaritan. Jerry and Brian were friends from childhood; Jerry became a lawyer, and then a drug addict, and is now trying to get clean and sober at Narcotics Anonymous. And Audrey surprises herself by inviting him to come and live with them, in a room in the garage.
No, she's not thinking of falling in love with Jerry -- far from it -- but she knows her husband would be pleased to see his friend in a safe place, and after all Audrey and Jerry loved Brian more than anyone else in the world.