Far from Heaven

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Far From Heaven
Far from heaven.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Todd Haynes
Produced by Jody Allen
Christine Vachon
Written by Todd Haynes
Starring Julianne Moore
Dennis Quaid
Dennis Haysbert
Patricia Clarkson
Viola Davis
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Edward Lachman
Edited by James Lyons
Distributed by Focus Features
Release dates
  • November 22, 2002 (2002-11-22)
Running time
107 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $13.5 million[2]
Box office $29,027,914[2]

Far from Heaven is a 2002 American drama film written and directed by Todd Haynes and starring Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, and Patricia Clarkson.

The film tells the story of Cathy Whitaker, a 1950s housewife, living in wealthy suburban Connecticut as she sees her seemingly perfect life begin to fall apart. It is done in the style of a Douglas Sirk film (especially 1955's All That Heaven Allows and 1959's Imitation of Life), dealing with complex contemporary issues such as race, gender roles, sexual orientation and class.

The film, which received positive critical reviews (and a Fresh rating of 89% on Rotten Tomatoes), was nominated for several Academy Awards: for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Julianne Moore), Best Original Screenplay (Todd Haynes), Best Cinematography (Edward Lachman), and Best Original Score (Elmer Bernstein).


In 1957 suburban Connecticut, Cathy Whitaker, appears to be the perfect wife, mother, and homemaker. Cathy is married to Frank, a successful executive at Magnatech, a company selling television advertising. One evening Cathy receives a phone call from the local police who are holding her husband. He says it's all a mix up but they won't let him leave alone. Cathy is preparing for her annual party with her best friend, Eleanor Fine. One day, Cathy spies an unknown black man walking through her yard. He turns out to be Raymond Deagan, the son of Cathy's late gardener.

Frank finds himself forced to stay late at the office, swamped with work. One evening, however, he enters an underground bar filled with single men. One night when Frank is working late, Cathy decides to bring his dinner to him at the office. She walks in on him passionately kissing another man. Frank confesses having had "problems" as a young man, and agrees to sign up for conversion therapy. His relationship with Cathy is irreparably strained, however; and he turns to alcohol. Meanwhile, Cathy starts becoming better acquainted with Raymond.

One night, after a party, Frank attempts to make love to Cathy. He is unable to become aroused and strikes Cathy when she tries to console him. Cathy finds herself completely unable to comprehend the destruction of her marriage. As she sees her once-idyllic world begin to fall apart, she turns to Raymond for comfort. He takes her on a ride to his part of the town where she meets other black people. At a gas station, they are sighted together by one of Cathy's neighbors, who immediately tells everyone. The town is soon ablaze with gossip about the two of them. After her husband comes home furious, Cathy unwillingly breaks off her blossoming friendship with Raymond.

Over Christmas, Cathy goes on a vacation with her husband to Miami to take their minds off of things. At the hotel, Frank has another sexual encounter with a young man. Unable to suppress his desires, he seeks a divorce from Cathy. Cathy is later informed by their maid Sybil that Raymond's daughter was attacked by three white boys. Cathy then goes to the Deagan home to find them packing up and moving to Baltimore. Now that Cathy is to be single, she presents the opportunity for them to be together. Raymond declines. "I've learned my lesson about mixing the two worlds," he says. In the last scene, Cathy goes to the train station to see Raymond off and say her silent goodbye to him.


Haynes wrote the script envisioning Moore and James Gandolfini as Cathy and Frank, respectively. While Moore joined the project immediately, Gandolfini was unavailable due to The Sopranos. Haynes' next choice, Russell Crowe, believed that the role was too small, and Jeff Bridges wanted too much money.[3]


According to the DVD director's commentary Far from Heaven is made in the style of many 1950s films, notably those of Douglas Sirk. Haynes created color palettes for every scene in the film and was careful and particular in his choices. Haynes emphasizes experience with color in such scenes as one in which Cathy, Eleanor, and their friends are all dressed in reds, oranges, yellows, browns, and greens. Haynes also plays with the color green, using it to light forbidden and mysterious scenes. He employs this effect both in the scene in which Frank visits a gay bar and when Cathy goes to the restaurant in a predominantly black neighborhood.[4]

Haynes also uses shots and angles that would have been standard in Sirk's films and era. Cinematographer Edward Lachman created the 1950s "look" with the same type of lighting techniques and lighting equipment (incandescent), and employs lens filters that would have been used in a 1950s-era melodrama. The script employs over-the-top, melodramatic dialogue, and Elmer Bernstein's score is reminiscent of those he had composed 40 and 50 years earlier. The sound, done by Kelley Baker, also uses a lot of foley to make more prominent the sound of rustling clothes and loud footsteps, a sound technique that was used more in 1950s-era film.[4]

In the commentary, Haynes notes that he was also influenced by Rainer Werner Fassbinder's film Ali: Fear Eats the Soul.[4] As in Fassbinder's film, in Far from Heaven Haynes portrays feelings of alienation and awkwardness. For example, instead of cutting to the next scene, Haynes sometimes lingers on a character for a few seconds longer than comfortable to the viewer, the same technique used by Fassbinder.[4]

Another feature is when Cathy drives her car through town. Rather than filming inside the car as it actually moves, the car is filmed still with artificial backgrounds seen through the windows, reminiscent of older films. On the DVD commentary, Haynes states that one of these scenes re-uses the artificial background first used in a scene from All That Heaven Allows.[4]


The film did extraordinarily well in the Village Voice '​s Film Critics' Poll of 2002, where Far from Heaven won for best picture, Moore for best lead performance and Haynes for best director and best original screenplay. Lachman's work in Far from Heaven also won best cinematography by a wide margin while Quaid, Clarkson, and Haysbert were all recognized for their supporting performances, placing second, fourth and ninth, respectively.[5]

Far from Heaven was nominated for four Academy Awards. The film was nominated for over 100 other awards and won approximately 30 of them.


Far from Heaven was the last film scored by Elmer Bernstein. The main theme was previously used in his score to the 1955 film The View from Pompey's Head albeit with a slightly different arrangement. The album's runtime is 42 minutes and 53 seconds.

  1. "Autumn in Connecticut" – 3:08
  2. "Mother Love" – 0:42
  3. "Evening Rest" – 1:52
  4. "Walking Through Town" – 1:49
  5. "Proof" – 1:01
  6. "The F Word" – 1:11
  7. "Party" – 0:55
  8. "Hit" – 2:42
  9. "Crying" – 1:11
  10. "Turning Point" – 4:46
  11. "Cathy and Raymond Dance" – 2:02
  12. "Disapproval" – 1:00
  13. "Walk Away" – 2:34
  14. "Orlando" – 0:56
  15. "Back to Basics" – 1:47
  16. "Stones" – 1:44
  17. "Revelation and Decision" – 4:21
  18. "Remembrance" – 1:56
  19. "More Pain" – 4:04
  20. "Transition" – 0:55
  21. "Beginnings" – 2:17

Musical adaptation[edit]

Theatrical songwriting team Scott Frankel and Michael Korie are currently working with Richard Greenberg on an Off Broadway-bound musical adaptation. The musical opened at Playwrights Horizons in Spring of 2013. Kelli O'Hara starred in the central role.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "FAR FROM HEAVEN (12A)". Entertainment Film Distributors. British Board of Film Classification. November 8, 2002. Retrieved August 17, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Far from Heaven at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ Vachon, Christine and Austin Bunn. A Killer Life Simon and Schuster, 2006.
  4. ^ a b c d e Far from Heaven DVD commentary track
  5. ^ Village Voice, January 1, 2003
  6. ^ Playbill.com, February 14, 2012

External links[edit]