This family drama is for those who like a good conversation. The film consists of a series of talks between various members of the Meyerson family and their friends and family over the course of one day in New York, frequently walking down the street or sitting on a park bench. They’re a normal enough family with the usual kinds of problems we all have. There are four grown siblings, a mother, and a grandmother, and the elephant in the room is the father who left and affected them all in different ways that still resonate. It’s a smart script that lets you get to know, and mostly like, the characters as the deeper story of the family emerges.
The kids are all very different from one another. Roland (Ian Kahn, “TURN: Washington’s Spies”, “Billions”) is the eldest and a typical first child overachiever. Daphne (Jackie Burns, “A Killer Party: A Murder Mystery Musical”) works in the publishing world, but she’s ready for something new. Daniel (Daniel Eric Gold, “Ugly Betty”, “Good Girls Revolt”) is a rabbinical student who loves to have a good theological discussion on a park bench. And the youngest is Susie (Shoshannah Stern, “Weeds”), an ambitious young real estate agent in a lesbian relationship with Tammy (Lauren Ridloff, “The Walking Dead”, Sound of Metal). Their mother Terri (Kate Mulgrew, “Orange is the New Black”, “Star Trek: Voyager”) is a pediatric oncologist. And then there’s matriarch of the clan, the grandmother Celeste (Barbara Barrie, Breaking Away, Private Benjamin). With exception of dad, they are a pretty close family.
The father who abandoned them all is Morty (Richard Kind, Inside Out, Argo). When he left, he was suffering from some unnamed mental problem and heading to Sweden with the promise of coming back when he was all better. But that never happened. We see a lot of that in flashbacks from the various characters’ perspectives, some of which work better than others. But what is clear is that his decision has had lasting impact on everyone in the seemingly happy family.
The curve ball thrown into this mix is a breaking news story that aliens are real. It’s a strange plot point, and though thankfully no ETs suddenly appear, it does push each of the characters to reassess.
This is definitely not a film for everyone. Not a lot happens, but the actors (mostly from television) do a great job of bringing their characters to life. And I was happy to see another deaf actor (Shoshannah Stern) in a role where her deafness was not part of the story. It’s a talky film, and the final scene doesn’t feel entirely authentic, and I’m not sure what exactly was magnificent about this family, but it has a rhythm all its own and I would still recommend it.
Opening in limited release in New York (Aug. 20) and Los Angeles (Aug. 27), and available virtually on the websites of all locations. Select screenings in theaters will offer closed captioned showings.