An Unfinished Life

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An Unfinished Life
An Unfinished Life film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLasse Hallström
Produced byLeslie Holleran
Alan Ladd, Jr.
Joe Roth
Bob Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein
Written byVirginia Korus Spragg
Based onAn Unfinished Life
by Mark Spragg
StarringRobert Redford
Jennifer Lopez
Morgan Freeman
Music byDeborah Lurie
CinematographyOliver Stapleton
Edited byAndrew Mondshein
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release date
  • August 19, 2005 (2005-08-19) (EIFF)
  • September 9, 2005 (2005-09-09) (United States)
Running time
108 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million[1]
Box office$18.6 million[1]

An Unfinished Life is a 2005 American drama film directed by Lasse Hallström, and based on the Mark Spragg novel of the same name. The film stars Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, and Morgan Freeman. It is the story of a gruff Wyoming rancher (Redford) who must reconcile his relationship with his struggling daughter-in-law (Lopez) and previously-unknown-to-him granddaughter, after they show up unexpectedly at his ranch and ask to stay with him and his disabled best friend and neighbor (Freeman).


One year ago, a wild bear stole a calf from Mitch (Morgan Freeman) and Einar’s (Robert Redford) ranch. The two friends attempted to save the calf, but the bear viciously attacked Mitch — and because Einar was drunk, he failed to save him from serious injury. The bear escaped into the mountains.

A year later, Mitch’s wounds still cause him constant pain. Einar cares for Mitch daily, giving him morphine injections, food and friendship. He leans his guilt on emotional crutches, while Mitch struggles to walk with real crutches. The bear is later seen foraging for food in town. Sheriff Crane Curtis (Josh Lucas) captures the bear and the bear ends up in the town zoo. About the same time, Einar’s long-lost daughter-in-law Jean (Jennifer Lopez) shows up on his doorstep; she is trying to escape from an abusive relationship.

Jean and her daughter, Griff (Becca Gardner), move in with Einar and Mitch. Einar’s son, Griffin, had married Jean years ago. She learned she was pregnant (with Griff) after Griffin died in a car accident. After his death, the family broke up. Tension exists between Einar and Jean because both are still grieving for Griffin. Tensions in the family build as Einar has always blamed Jean for his son's death.

Since Griffin died, Jean has been in a series of unsuccessful relationships. She moved in with Einar to escape her latest abusive boyfriend, Gary (Damian Lewis). Jean starts working at a local coffee shop to earn money to become independent. There she befriends Nina, another waitress (Camryn Manheim). The local sheriff also becomes her friend.

Meanwhile, Gary has tracked Jean down and appears in town. Initially, Einar and the sheriff throw him out of town. Einar asks Jean to tell him how Griffin died. Jean says they flipped a coin to determine who would drive — she lost. At 3 a.m., the two tired souls had set out on the last leg of a long trip. Jean fell asleep at the wheel. The car flipped six times. Griffin died, but Jean survived. When Einar learns the truth about his son's death, he says they’ll have to talk about Jean moving out. Jean says she’s through talking. The next morning she takes Griff with her and leaves to stay with Nina. Nina later ends up helping her understand Einar’s gruff ways and bitterness.

Griff, who has started to build a relationship with her grandfather, leaves her mother and goes back to the ranch alone. Einar meets Jean at the diner and invites her to come back and live with him and Griff after he and the child have had a camping trip.

The "camping trip" is a cover story meant to allow them time to carry out a request from Mitch to set free the bear who handicapped him. The plan to get the bear into a transport cage does not go well. Griff accidentally knocks the gearshift lever into neutral while Einar is luring the bear into the cage. The bear gets free, and Einar gets injured as he jumps out of the way. Griff drives Einar to the hospital, where he and Jean attempt to reconcile. Back at the ranch, Mitch survives a peaceful confrontation with the bear from his past. It goes into the mountains, where it belongs.

Meanwhile, Gary returns to the area and comes to the ranch the next day to accost Jean. He and Einar have an explosive confrontation that ends in Einar threatening Gary with his rifle, before badly beating him up. We later see Gary, quite battered, on a Trailways bus as it moves through Nebraska.

In the final scene, Einar affectionately talks with one of his cats, who throughout the whole story he coldly ignored. Griff invites Sheriff Curtis for lunch when he drops by to see Jean (previously Griff, knowing of her mother fooling around with Sheriff, told him not to stay for lunch). All is well as Mitch narrates the last seconds of the story, describing to Einar his dreams of flying above the earth and coming to understand things about life.



While set in Wyoming, An Unfinished Life was actually filmed in the Canadian towns of Ashcroft, Savona, and Kamloops, British Columbia.[2]


Critical reception[edit]

Reviews of the film were mixed. Movie review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes shows that 53% of critics gave the film a positive review, giving it a "rotten" score.[3]

Box office[edit]

An Unfinished Life did not open well; it opened at number 16 in its limited release opening weekend with $1,008,308. In its second weekend, with a wider release, the film opened at number 11 with $2,052,066.[4] Despite its $30 million budget, the film made only $18,618,284 worldwide by the time of its closing.


The film won the best makeup award from the Canadian Network of Makeup Artists (Jayne Dancose), and it won the Genesis Award as best feature for 2005.


  1. ^ a b "An Unfinished Life". Box Office Mojo., Inc. 2005. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  2. ^ Bass, Dale (10 June 2010). "Roll film, celebrate a decade". Kamloops This Week. Black Press. Archived from the original on 22 August 2010. Retrieved 25 October 2010 – via BC Local News.
  3. ^ "An Unfinished Life". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. 2005. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  4. ^ "An Unfinished Life". Box Office Mojo., Inc. 2005. Retrieved 16 September 2018.

External links[edit]