WHAT THEY HAD – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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Writer-director Elizabeth Chomko’s debut film is a simultaneously sharp and tender portrait of longstanding, interconnected family squabbles and hidden resentments that finally come to a head with a near-tragedy. Bridget (Hilary Swank) rushes home to Chicago when her mother, Ruth (Blythe Danner), wanders off one snowy night: Mom’s in the late-middle stages of Alzheimer’s, sometimes coherent, more often confused and lost in the past. She turns up hours later, just fine, but this is the last straw for Bridget’s desperate brother, Nick (Michael Shannon), who’s been holding down the familial fort while their father, Bert (Robert Forster), refuses to acknowledge that it’s time for Ruth to move to a nursing home where she can get the support she needs. Bridget has power-of-attorney, but will she use it to override her father’s wishes?

Achingly affecting performances all around — particularly Danner’s, well, charming blitheness and Shannon’s seething, grieving anger — and oh-so-many poignant details ground What They Had in melancholy authenticity. Continue reading…

EDITOR’S NOTE: What They Had is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for Nov 2, 2018

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MaryAnn Johanson

MaryAnn Johanson is a freelance writer on film, TV, DVD, and pop culture from New York City and now based in London. She is the webmaster and sole critic at FlickFilosopher.com, which debuted in 1997 and is now one of the most popular, most respected, and longest-running movie-related sites on the Internet. Her film reviews also appear in a variety of alternative-weekly newspapers across the U.S. Johanson is one of only a few film critics who is a member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (the Webby organization), an invitation-only, 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. She is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC Radio, LBC-London, and on local radio programs across North America, and she served as a judge at the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival at the 2003 I-Con, the largest SF convention on the East Coast. She is the author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Read Johanson's recent articles below. For her Women On Film archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).