Reign Over Me (Movie Analysis)

  • Plot

Alan Johnson is living a good life. He is married to a woman he loves, has children and a well-paying job. However, he finds it hard to balance his work life and his personal life as his responsibilities have increased. He has no one to share his feelings with except his wife. Charlie Fineman, on the other hand, used to have a family and a job as well.

Unfortunately, his wife and kids die in a terrible terrorist attack. Charlie is devastated after the death of his wife and kids. He begins to isolate himself and tries to suppress the grief. Alan and Charlie were roommates in college and Alan tries to get in touch with him again. As Charlie’s condition keeps getting worse, Alan decides to stick by him and help him to deal with his emotional trauma.

  • What happened to Charlie Fineman?

Charlie Fineman once had a good life- good job, nice family and lots of love. On September 11, 2001 his family dies in a terrorist attack. His family dies in a plane crash. With a sudden loss of his loved ones so unexpectedly, Charlie loses his normal life and slowly begin to isolate himself. He seems to be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression.

  • Charlie’s character

Charlie Fineman isolates himself from the people around him. His behavior seems to be abnormal. He is in denial and avoids any conversation about his family. Alan, his college roommate, reunites with him. Alan is shocked when he realizes that Charlie doesn’t really remember him.

However, because Alan doesn’t talk about his family, he feels no problem in hanging out with him. One night, they are in the bar and they are just having a good time with each other.

Later, they are seen drinking root beer and Alan suddenly starts to talk about Charlie’s family. Charlie gets angry, he throws root beer over him, he yells, gets physically aggressive and he also gets suspicious. He accuses Alan Johnson that he has been sent to Charlie by someone.

Charlie compulsively remodels his kitchen and he is seen listening to music wearing headphones throughout the movie.

Charlie once again gets extremely aggressive later when he meets Alan in his office. He seems to get agitated quite easily and frequently.

Charlie is seen getting flashbacks about his family, getting extremely agitated at times, being isolated, maladaptive behavior, anxiety, getting intense physical reactions such as pounding heart when the pictures of his family are shown to him, denial and he seems to be emotionally numb.


  • What is PTSD?

When a person faces a traumatic event such as a soldier returning from a war or a person experiencing a natural disaster like Tsunami or any event that threatens you in any way can trigger Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD can happen to anyone and the cause of it is not tied to one particular event. PTSD can develop if an individual experiences any emotional trauma and if it leaves the person emotionally devastated. Traumas such as sexual assault, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, war etc. are some causes of PTSD.

  • Symptoms of PTSD and how Charlie depicted them in his behavior

Some of the symptoms of PTSD are mentioned below:

  • Upsetting memories
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Physical reactions such as pounding heart, sweating etc
  • Avoiding reminders of trauma
  • Loss of interest in activities and life
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Anxiety

Throughout the movie, it was clear that Charlie Fineman displayed these symptoms.  He constantly got flashbacks of his family, excessive sweating, and severe anxiety and pounding heart when the pictures of his family were shown to him, he also avoided anything that reminds him of his family, the future seemed bleak, and he was hopeless, frequently got extremely irritated and dangerously aggressive. It is clear that Charlie Fineman was suffering from PTSD.

  • Reflection Paper

Talking about the acting aspect, I was surprised to see Adam Sandler in a serious role. I have seen him doing comedy so I never thought he could pull off a role like this so brilliantly. I enjoyed the movie because the actors did a good job. Storyline was good and execution was nice.  Director did a good job as well.

I liked the part when Charlie finally revealed his story to Alan Johnson. The emotions seemed true and it was a heart wrenching moment. Even imagining it was so painful but I had developed lots of  respect for Charlie Fineman  that despite such a great loss he didn’t exactly  give up. He was still living, he was still fighting and towards the end we saw he was on his way to recovery. That is something extremely hard and it is admirable and inspirational for people like us as well. There are people out there who have lost so much yet they refuse to give up. This is something I think we all need to remember when the going gets tough.

It is important to remember that no matter how bad it gets, there’s always a silver lining. It just reminded me of Dumbledore’s dialogue “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light.” It is true. This movie reminded us that troubles are everywhere. Life can get really hard but with some support we can always face all the challenges life throws at us.

In the end, I was happy to see Charlie Fineman was on his way to recovery.