Life During WarTime

Director: Evan Dunsky
Screenwriters: Evan Dunsky

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


In an age of rampant crime, people feel more comfortable in the sanctuary of alarmed cars and barricaded houses than in the company of fellow human beings. This isolation breeds paranoia and emotional distance. Against this backdrop, Tommy Hudler (David Arquette), a promising residential burglar-alarm salesman, and his charismatic mentor Heinrich Grigoris (Stanley Tucci) establish a moderately successful business. However, the unsatisfied Heinrich concocts an illegal scheme to enhance their profits. Meanwhile, Tommy has fallen for Gale (lusciously portrayed by Kate Capshaw), a beautiful woman quietly raising her teenage son Howard (Ryan Reynolds) alone. Gale reaches out to Tommy, and they begin an affair. As Tommy grapples with an ever-grayer line between right and wrong, tragedy strikes. Fueled by guilt and rage, he frantically attempts to discover the truth as his life, love, business, and friendship become entangled in a web of petty crime and brutal murder.

Arquette is furiously effective as a decent soul searching for a path, and his distinctive comic sensibility meshes brilliantly with Tucci, who brings depth and charm to a potentially unsympathetic character. These only head the list of dazzling performances, notably by Reynolds, who delivers an extremely funny, film-stealing monologue on a sexual experience. Life during WarTime intricately juxtaposes the simplicity of real life with the complexity of imagination to capture a world frozen by fear. First-time director Evan Dunsky adeptly constructs an atmospheric noir comedy that balances extreme emotions and actions against a subtle truthfulness. The result is a sinfully hilarious film.

Evan Dunsky, Director
Evan Dunsky was born in Chicago. He has worked in the film industry for fifteen years, first in various production capacities and then as a screenwriter. Inexplicably, besides the adaptation for Life during WarTime, none of his screenplays have been produced. A short film, Muddy Hands, premiered at Sundance a long time ago. Life during WarTime is his feature directing debut.

— Trevor Groth

Screening Details

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