WHAT THEY HAD – Review by Susan Granger

You have to admire first-time writer/director Elizabeth Chomko for assembling a star-studded cast for this poignant, multi-generational domestic drama, inspired by memories of her own grandparents. Set in the Chicago area, the story begins with clips of old home movies as elderly Ruth Everhardt (Blythe Danner) slips out of bed and shuffles off down the street into the cold, snowy night, clad only in a nightgown and sweater.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK, November 2, 2018: WHAT THEY HAD

motw logo 1-35What They Had, the first feature from actress-turned-writer/director Elizabeth Chomko, is a stirring family drama in which adult siblings, Bridget (Hilary Swank) and Nick (Michael Shannon) are trying to cope with their mother’s (Blythe Danner) progressive dementia and their father’s (Robert Forster) denial of her disability. Chomko’s well-crafted script and sensitive direction, and the superb performances from the stellar ensemble bring a balance of heartbreak and humor to this painful and entirely relatable situation.

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WHAT THEY HAD – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

“Grandma drank the holy water,” says Taissa Farmiga’s moody college student. “At least she’s hydrated,” says Michael Shannon as her uncle who laughs mostly to keep him and the audience from crying. That first-time filmmaker Elizabeth Chomko can pull off this sort of humor in a movie that revolves around the evil disease that is dementia is a feat achieved primarily based on the strength of her casting choices.

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WHAT THEY HAD – Review by Loren King

Pangs of authenticity fill Elizabeth Chomko‘s debut feature What They Had and with good reason. Chomko based her film on her own experience with her grandmother’s dementia and the home movies we see in this tender family drama belong to her. The family dynamics and emotional push-pull in Chomko’s story of how various family members deal with the reality of Alzheimer’s Disease has a truthfulness that feels earned.

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WHAT THEY HAD – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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. Achingly affecting performances all around — particularly Blythe Danner’s and Michael Shannon’s — and oh-so-many poignant details ground What They Had in melancholy authenticity.

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WHAT THEY HAD – Review by Cate Marquis

What They Had draws a moving and remarkably accurate picture of the challenges grown children face when a parent has Alzheimers. It is a crisis increasing number of families will face with a disease that only ever gets worse. Writer/director Elizabeth Chomko drew on her own family’s experience for this family drama that is boldly truthful as well as engrossing.

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