Sunday, November 4, 2018

Movie Review: "What They Had" (2018)

Director: Elizabeth Chomko
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes

Two adult children argue about what is best for their mom, who is suffering from dementia. They debate whether or not she should live at home with their dad, or be placed in a professional care facility.

What They Had 2018 movie still Hilary Swank Blythe Danner
"She's going to a place and he's going to have to let her." (Image Source)
Dementia and Alzheimers are terrible diseases, and it is one of the most difficult things in the world to watch a loved one slowly fade away. We say this from experience. Deciding what to do about it may be even harder. "What They Had" is written and directed by Elizabeth Chomko and serves as her writing and directing debut. Bridget (Hilary Swank) has been living in California and is called back to Chicago by her brother Nick (Michael Shannon) when their mother, Ruth (Blythe Danner), who is suffering from dementia, wandered off in the middle of the night and is now missing. Though Ruth is found safe, Nick is increasingly worried and wants Bridget, who has power of attorney over her mom, to move her to a home where she can receive round the clock care. The only problem is their father, Burt (Robert Forester), believes he can take better care of his wife at home and refuses to move her. Nick is hoping Bridget can convince them otherwise.
What They Had 2018 movie still Michael Shannon Hilary Swank Blythe Danner Taissa Farmiga
"No matter where you take her, every year she gets worse." (Image Source)
"What They Had" is a touching but heartbreaking tale of family and gives an intricate, familiar look at the struggles and hard decisions that come with age. We were brought to tears on more than one occasion while watching this film, which is about a subject that hits close to home for us. The interactions and conversations depicted within this movie are so realistic that it was like traveling back in time and reliving the painful experiences we went through several years ago. We don't mean this strictly for all of the tough choices and harsh realities that must be made, but also for the unintentional times of joy and laughter, the moments where someone remembers you even in the midst of their illness, however fleeting it may be. Luckily, "What They Had" has a stellar cast full of actors who manage to bring delicate nuance and tremendous passion to their excellent performances. Michael Shannon is brilliant as Nick, a temperamental, rough around the edges bar owner who has been doing the lion's share of the work when it comes to helping out his aging father and ailing mother. Hilary Swank is great as Bridget, a woman who is always trying to please everyone else, especially her daughter Emma (Taissa Farmiga), to the detriment of her own happiness. Robert Forster gives a masterful performance as Burt, a devout and stubborn but loving man stuck in his ways. Burt is the kind of person who thinks he can handle whatever life throws at him, even when he can't. Finally, Blythe Danner gives a moving performance as Ruth, a woman who is losing her memories and falls into confusion about who and where she is as she forgets those around her. It is this group of actors who breathe honest life into Elizabeth Chomko's beautiful, melancholy script and make "What We Had" as successful as it is.
What They Had 2018 movie still Robert Forster
"There’s no bells or whistles! You find someone you can stand and you make a commitment." (Image Source)
We thoroughly enjoyed "What They Had" and think Elizabeth Chomko has put together a well-paced, tremendously accurate film. Some character dramas tend to drag where their pacing and runtimes are concerned, but not this one. She has crafted a story with the perfect balance of sadness, tenderness, comedy, heart, and family. For those looking for an emotional family drama, look no further than this movie.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.1/10
RT Rating: ~89%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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