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What They Had

A woman must fly back to her hometown when her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother, wanders into a blizzard. The return home forces her to confront her past.

From first-time writer/director Elizabeth Chomko, WHAT THEY HAD centers on a family in crisis. Bridget (Hilary Swank) returns home to Chicago at her brother's (Michael Shannon) urging to deal with her ailing mother (Blythe Danner) and her father's (Robert Forster) reluctance to let go of their life together.

"Dealing with a family member who is struggling with Alzheimer’s dementia can feel like a high stakes improv session. Bottom line, never deny the premise. Does mom answer the stapler instead of the phone? Go with it. Does she insist on calling her husband of 40 years her boyfriend? Well, technically he is. Does she make a pass at you on the way home from the hospital? OK, maybe that one you can deny.

Still, it should be of little surprise that Chicago, that fertile crescent of American improv, would be the perfect setting for one of cinema’s most full-blooded, insightful and profoundly human examinations of Alzheimer’s related dementia, a disease that afflicts over five and a half million Americans over the age of 65. Moreover, as conceived and executed by actor, playwright and first-time filmmaker Elizabeth Chomko, What They Had is a moving examination of the meaning and purpose of the family unit in late bloom, existing well past its usefulness.

What the film surprisingly isn’t, given the difficulty of the subject matter, is a chore to sit through. The intimacy and honesty of the family rapport, the razor sharp dialogue and—most unexpectedly—its deeply grounded humor keep the film and its slight and compassionate story utterly engaging. It results in a family drama that seems so real you leave the theater feeling like you just flew back from seeing your parents, even if they’re nothing like the parents portrayed in the film."

Courtesy - Oliver Jones, Observer

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Directed by: 
Elizabeth Chomko
Running Time: 
Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon, Robert Forster
Screenplay by: 
Elizabeth Chomko
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