Reign Over Me (2007)

Rated R. Our ratings: V- 1; L- 6; S/N-3 .

Do not human beings have a hard service on earth,
and are not their days like the days of a labourer?
Like a slave who longs for the shadow,
and like labourers who look for their wages,
so I am allotted months of emptiness,
and nights of misery are apportioned to me.
Job 7:1-3.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are
carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28

Reign Over Me

On a busy street in Manhattan two former dental college roommates meet by chance, Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) and Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle). African American Alan has a successful practice and lovely wife and family, whereas Charlie, looking like a street person, spends his time riding around on his small electric scooter. Having lost his wife and daughter to the terrorists of 9/11, Charlie cannot go on with his life, blocking everything out instead. He does not even recognize Alan at first.

Alan, who himself is not happy with his marriage and profession, becomes involved in trying to get his friend to reconnect with life. If it is obvious that he has been neglecting his wife Janeane (Jada Pinkett Smith), he almost abandoning her as his desire to help Charlie becomes an obsession. Matters become more complicated when he himself becomes the object of obsession. Donna, a female patient (Saffron Burrows) tries to force herself on him, and when he tries to drop her as a patient, she charges him with sexual molestation. needless to say, Alan’s dental partners are upset, but because Alan started the practice and brought them in, they cannot fire him.

Some powerful, dramatic moments, interspersed with a number of moments of grace and laughter, make this an intriguing film to watch, as was director Mike Binder’s last film The Upside of Anger.

A good teaching/preaching moment: Alan has persuaded the psychiatrist Angela (Liv Tyler) who lives in his building to take on Charlie as a patient, but the latter never opens up to her during his many sessions with her. Finally, she suggests that there is no point in going on, that he must tell his story to someone. As Charlie is leaving Angela’s inner office he sees Alan sitting in the waiting room. He goes and joins his friend, telling him about the last day he saw his wife. We do not need the uplifting soundtrack music to realize that this is the beginning of his re-engagement with life.

For Reflection/Discussion

“Reign Over Me” takes its title from the song “Love, Reign O’er Me,” contained in The Who’s rock opera “Quadrophenia’s,” this version performed at the request of Adam Sandler by Pearl jam. Check out the lyrics.

How does the song relate to Charlie and Alan? What do you think is the meaning of “rain” and “tears” in the song? Note the word play with “reign” and “rain. “ How does Charlie especially need “a drink of cool cool rain” ? How is the song like a prayer, one of the psalms (such as Ps. 6 or 7, and many, many more)? How can we as Christians interpret the “love” that the singer wants to “reign over me” ? More than a generalized understanding of love; love enfleshed as a Person?

2) It is easy to see how Charlie is afflicted, but what about Alan? What seems to be his condition?

3) How could Alan’s obsession with helping Charlie be an avoidance of dealing with his own problems? (Remember Jesus’ quoting the proverb “Physician, heal yourself” in Luke 4:23?) And yet, how can helping another also be a means for healing oneself? Have you found that while helping a friend you gained as much as the friens?

4) Were you wondering throughout the film about Charlie’s concern for remodeling the kitchen? What had it come to symbolize for him—his burden of guilt? Remember his telling Alan that the last time he had seen his wife she had wanted to talk about remodeling it, but he had been “busy running out the door” How is Alan standing in for Christ in this seen (see Matt. 11:28)? How has stood in for Christ for you when your life’s burden grew so heavy that you sought help? When were you a sharer or reliver of another’s burden?

5) At what places do you see God working in the lives of the distressed characters?