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|Julia Roberts||Lisa Waechter|
|Carrie-Anne Moss||Kelly Hanson|
|Willem Dafoe||Charles Waechter|
|Emily Watson||Jane Lawrence|
|Ryan Reynolds||Michael Waechter|
|Hayden Panettiere||Jane Lawrence|
|Brooklynn Proulx||Leslie Lawrence|
|Chase Ellison||Christopher Lawrence|
|George Newbern||Jimmy Lawrence|
|Shannon Lucio||Ryne Taylor|
|Ioan Gruffudd||Addison Wesley|
|Cayden Boyd||Michael Taylor|
Set in the present with extensive flash-backs to the past, this film revolves around three generations of domineering father Charles (Willem Dafoe) family, his wife Lisa (Julia Roberts), their two children: son Michael (young: Cayden Boyd; adult: Ryan Reynolds) and daughter Ryne (Shannon Lucio), as well as Lisa's (much younger) sister Jane (young: Hayden Panettiere; adult: Emily Watson), and her son Christopher (Chase Ellison) and daughter Leslie (Brooklynn Proulx) as well as Michael's ex-wife Kelly Hanson (Carrie-Anne Moss).
Charles and Michael had, and still have, a strained relationship, with both pushing the other. In a flash-back to a boyhood car journey, the younger Michael claims to have lost his glasses, while knowing he simply has them in his pocket. Without knowing this deceit, Charles makes Michael walk home in the rain as a punishment. This tit-for-tat and rule-breaking continues with Charles imposing on all around him, including Jane, who is staying with them. She, too, hates Charles' domineering nature. The two form a kind of pact against Charles. When Michael embarrasses Charles in front of his colleagues by falsely claiming to have written a poem, Fireflies in the Garden by Robert Frost, he is punished by having to hold his weighted arms horizontal, aching so much that at the end, he cannot even take food to his mouth. Jane feeds him. As they grow older the conflicts escalate, with a growing Michael eventually intervening in a quarrel between his parents, attacking Charles and forcing him to the ground.
A critical dramatic event in the film occurs with a tragic car accident as Charles and Lisa drive to a graduation celebration at Jane's house in honor of Lisa's college graduation. Driving hurriedly, Charles swerves to avoid colliding with Christopher, who crosses the road carelessly, and their car hits a tree, leaving Lisa dead, Charles injured, and both Charles and Christopher feeling guilty.
Michael takes Jane's children Christopher and Leslie "fishing", attempting to cheer them up by exploding the fish with firecrackers, as he had done with Jane growing up. Concerned with what Charles and Jane will think, he encourages the children to lie to their mother about the trip. As predicted, Charles and Jane consider his behavior inappropriate. Michael's having noisy sex with ex-wife Kelly, who arrives for the funeral, does not help matters.
The events of the accident and consequent guilt and anxiety see an upset Christopher running away, only to be found by Michael who assures him that he is not to blame for Lisa's death. Christopher insists on walking home alone after their talk, and Michael gives him his cell phone in case he changes his mind. Immediately discarding the phone, Christopher remains missing for several hours, Jane again blaming Michael for leaving Christopher (who is found safely). More revelations and recriminations ensue, as Michael discovers that his late mother was having an affair with her young professor Addison (Ioan Gruffudd), and had planned to leave Charles following her graduation. Jane also discovers, while she and Kelly drive around looking for Christopher, that Kelly is pregnant and that Michael doesn't know. Michael and Kelly reconcile and they announce their news to the family before they leave. While discussing baby names with Ryne and Kelly, Michael mentions that he likes the name Max for a boy, a name previously suggested by Lisa for Ryne, had she been a boy.
The title of the film derives from the name of Micheal's book about his childhood - taken from a scene in their lives, where Michael, Christopher and Leslie are having fun in the garden exploding fireflies with badminton rackets, in the dark. The revelations of the book concerned Charles and Jane, and in a sense the film see the history of the book told, and then re-written. This is brought home in a scene where the surviving family is watching an old home movie and, perhaps surprised by the happiness it captures, Charles and Michael begin to reconcile. Michael destroys the manuscript.
Theatrical : 2011-10-14 : United States of America
DVD : 2012-02-07