It is rare to see a Hollywood love story so bogged down by bleak sadness that the slightest joke, or even an unexpected smile from a character, can feel like such a tremendous relief. Here, we have a film so stark, so bleak, that the briefest ray of sunshine feels like a long summer night. Yet, throughout its neverending sadness, there are glimmers of hope. Yes, the suicidal alcoholic and hooker with a heart of gold are stock characters, but the way they rely on each other brings them tender humanity, making them relatable against all odds. It is a harsh meditation on addiction and self-destruction, but the hints at redemption give the film a deep, added layer of soul. Cage won an Oscar for his portrayal of Ben, determined to drink himself to death after losing his family and his job, and Shue should have for her haunting performance as Sera, the prostitute who agrees not to try and change his mind. The way they find each other throughout the movie is fascinating, as they traverse different paths at similar speeds and for reasons likely more similar than either of them realize. This is a bold film of a singular vision (Figgis wrote, directed and scored), and the type of fare that is as essential as it is difficult.