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FilmWhat They Had

Friday December 14th at 9:10 PM


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Elizabeth Chomko · United States · 2018 · 101 mins · PG

At first glance, you might mistake What They Had for one of those well-meaning family dramas about what to do when your mom is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. But that would discount the exceptional accomplishment achieved by debuting director Elizabeth Chomko, enlivening her scrappy script with a cast of actors who truly are as good as it gets. You laugh as much as you cry, which means you believe in the movie’s truth.

The ever-glorious Blythe Danner excels as Ruth, a senior-care nurse who starts showing signs of dementia. Her husband Bert (Robert Forster) turns a blind eye, bristling like the military man he was when his son, Nicky (Michael Shannon) says it’s time to get Mom institutionalized. Enter daughter Bridget (Hilary Swank), in from Los Angeles with her own daughter, Emma (Taissa Farmiga). Bridget gets to cast the deciding vote on what to do with mom since she has power of attorney for both her parents.

Chomko handles the family dynamics with wicked skill and a keen eye for nuance. Swank cuts straight to the heart as the daughter struggling with what feels right as opposed to what actually is right.

Movies this rich in observational detail, emotional focus and acting artistry are rare. Watch out for What They Had. It can sneak up and floor you. –Rolling Stone“An excellent cast hit the right notes in an evenly wrought family drama that rings true.” The Globe and Mail“There’s raw power in Chomko’s writing, but so much scrupulousness and craft that you feel safe when the time comes to weep.” VultureCast Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon, Robert Forster