What They Had – Film Review by Grant Ryan
Director: Elizabeth Chomko
Writer: Elizabeth Chomko
Stars: Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon, Robert Forster
We see a woman in her 70s, Ruth (Blythe Danner), dressed in only her night gown. She puts on a pair of shoes and disappears out into the night. There is snow on the ground as she leaves for an unknown destination. A little while later, her husband Burt (Robert Forster) wakes up and seems agitated when he realises she is gone.
Yes, this is another attempt by Hollywood to deal with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It’s a little beyond Oscar season, so they must know this one isn’t getting any awards. Quite why they think we need another sad but rewarding tale on this topic is beyond me, but so they do. Has Hollywood given up on silly escapism? Can they not leave films such as this in the hands of worthwhile independent film-makers? Writer/ director Elizabeth Chomko guides us into this murky world.
If there is a reason to go to this film (and I’m not sure there is), it’s the cast. They do a good job of looking earnest and generally worrying about things. Michael Shannon is always watchable and works well in the scenes with Hilary Swank, as a brother and sister concerned about their parents. The script, however, is a strange one, and it flops around until it makes it to 90+ minutes and eventually ends. While it’s good to have a break from the standard formulaic story arc, it would be nice to have something else replacing it?
The only thing that really keeps this show on the road is the quality of the acting. After about an hour, there is a natural point where you feel the film should end, but it doesn’t. It rambles on while you sit and wonder why you’re not already in the lobby or on the bus home. I guess the meandering storyline is a bit like life, but there is another option, you can avoid this film altogether and have a life instead! How about reading a classic? I’m sure you could get a couple of chapters of Anna Karenina in? Or maybe just contemplate the dark and inevitable void. Either way, it’s time better spent than watching this.