As Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, elderly Daisy Fuller (Cate Blanchett) lies on her deathbed attended to by her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond). With the storm raging outside, Daisy begins to recount the remarkable tale of her lost love, Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt). Born in 1918, Benjamin is no ordinary child, coming out of the womb so wrinkled and gnarled that his father Thomas (Jason Flemyng), believing his son to be horribly deformed, abandons him at an old people's home. Raised by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), a kindly member of staff, Benjamin confounds doctors by surviving his strange affliction and becoming younger and younger as the years go by.
First meeting Daisy as a child, when he looks like a pensioner, the two form a lifelong bond and, after Benjamin goes out in the world he returns to her again and again as an increasingly younger man. As their love blossoms during the brief period where their ages correspond, Benjamin must face the terrible reality that this bliss cannot last and make a decision that will change both their lives forever.
Loosely adapted from F Scott Fitzgerald's short story, this deeply romantic, sumptuously staged yarn actually has far more in common with another tale of an unlikely hero making his way through recent history - Forrest Gump. Penned by Gump screenwriter Eric Roth, the wide-eyed innocence of Pitt's narration, delivered with a gentlemanly southern drawl, is particularly reminiscent of Tom Hanks' beloved simpleton, although this is a far more complex, nuanced story.
Achieved with a remarkable mix of digital and prosthetic ageing effects that allow Pitt and Blanchett to convincingly grow between childhood and old age and vice-versa, David Fincher's film is a rare mix of remarkable technical accomplishment and absorbing character-driven drama. Known for chronicling the grim side of life with movies such as Se7en, Fight Club and Zodiac, the director deftly turns his hand to this warm-hearted tale, although still manages to bring thematic depth and a bittersweet overtone to what could have been an overly schmaltzy weepy in less capable hands.