Let me cut to the chase. This film did not, at all, meet my expectations. The trailers lead one to believe that it is a film with supernatural overtones, but it turns out to be something else all together. The story line seems simple on its face. Alison Callaway (Amy Irving), a wife and loving mother, unexpectedly decides to slit her wrist in the bathtub one night, killing herself. Her husband, psychologist David Callaway, comes upon her lifeless body, and so does their beloved daughter, Emily (Dakota Fanning). Emily goes into shock and comes under the care of a therapist named Katherine (Famke Janssen).
Sometime later, when Emily's condition seemingly improves, her father then decides to leave New York City, where they live, and relocate to a small upstate town. No sooner do they move there, they meet the real estate agent and the town's sheriff, both of whom seem a tad peculiar. Moreover, there appears to be something not quite right with the couple next door, especially the husband. When Emily starts talking about an ostensibly imaginary friend named Charlie, the viewer knows that something is afoot. When David develops a new friend of his own, Elizabeth (Elizabeth Shue), trouble lies ahead, as Emily exhibits bizarre behavior towards her, as well as towards Elizabeth's young niece who is trying to befriend her.
As Charlie appears to be becoming an ever present and ominous entity in their lives, and Emily's odd behavior continues unabated, David remains the most kind, concerned, and understanding of fathers. He contacts Emily's therapist Katherine, who is very concerned about the eccentric behavior Emily is exhibiting. Meanwhile, the male neighbor interjects himself into the picture in a seemingly ominous way. So, David, who is also having flashbacks of events involving his wife, appears to have his hands full on the home front. By the time things start to go totally askew, the viewer can pretty much guess what the final denouement will be.
Despite its great cast and excellent performances, the script is weak and leaves a lot to be desired. It cheats the viewer with its subplots that go nowhere and are used merely to create red herrings for the sake of creating them. The film ends up being no more than total nonsense. Ari Schlossberg, the screenwriter, has made the mistake of underestimating the intelligence of the average viewer who would go to see a film starring Robert De Niro. Not even De Niro's otherwise fine performance can elevate this film to more than what it is, which is a far cry from what it promised in its trailers.
This is not a film worth adding to one's personal collection. This is a film that is worth a rental, when you have nothing better to do.