on May 02, 1997 by Stephenie Slahor
   Seth (Aidan Quinn) suffers troubling questions about life and his place in it after his wife dies in a drowning accident. Finding no solace in his faith, he decides to try a test in which he will break each of the Ten Commandments. He thinks that, after he has done so, if God intends him to learn and go on then God will send him a message. Seth's wife was the sister of Rachel ("Scream's" Courteney Cox), who is married to Harry ("Paperback Romance's" Anthony LaPaglia). They know Seth is suffering, but each reacts in a different way--Rachel tires help Seth through his grief, but Harry thinks Seth is going off the deep end and not worth the bother of being concerned.
   As Seth begins to carry out his Commandments test, an intriguing parallel develops, in that the jerky Harry thinks nothing of breaking any of the God's rules if it suits his goals. The parallel develops throughout the film, giving it delicious movement from its light beginning to its mysterious and dramatic middle and end. As each man breaks one commandment after another, the two eventually work their way to the last and toughest: Thou shalt not kill.
   The gripping conclusion comes in a lighthouse during a hurricane; there is more mystery and finally a true miracle occurs, with Seth receiving his message. "Commandments" is a study in the questions of life shown through a unique and curious slant. Quinn and LaPaglia give masterful interpretations of their characters, giving the audience everything it needs to see the direction each is taking toward right and wrong. Cox's performance augments the film's flow, but it's the work of Quinn and LaPaglia that gives it its study in contrasts and its message of darkness being overcome by light.    Starring Aidan Quinn, Courteney Cox and Anthony LaPaglia. Directed by Daniel Taplitz. Written by Daniel Taplitz. Produced by Ivan Reitman, Michael Chinich, Joe Medjuck and Daniel Goldberg. A Gramercy release. Drama. Rated R for language and sexuality. Running time: 105 min. Screened at the Palm Springs fest
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