TIFF18 Review “What They Had”

Featuring an excellent ensemble performance, What They Had, debuts in theatres this weekend marking the film debut of playwright Elizabeth Chomko. 

Taking place over the span of a few days around the holidays, the film showcases the internal struggles of one family as Alzheimer’s makes an impact on their lives. Late one night matriarch Ruth (Blythe Danner) slips out of bed, dons a slinky nightgown and wanders into a snowstorm leaving her sleeping husband behind. Its apparent that this has happened before. When dad Burt (Robert Forster) awakens he quickly calls son Nicky (Michael Shannon) and daughter Bridget (Hilary Swank), the latter flying into Chicago from California with her daughter Emma (Taissa Farmiga) in town.
Ruth is miraculously found unharmed but stubborn Nicky decides that it’s time for Ruth to be put into an care facility, but his father disagrees believing that a few months in the warm Florida sun will do the trick for his wife. From there, the family bickers about how they can move forward while also coming to conclusions about their own failures in life. Bridget comes to realize that she’s married to a man she never really loved, while her daughter struggles with the decision of if she wants to return to college after the break.
The film features amazing performances from it’s cast, each bringing something great to the role. Michael Shannon, who’s mostly type cast in villain roles, shines as the stubborn but loveable Nicky, who’s just trying to get his bar off the ground while trying to be the primary caregiver. Swank also delivers, playing the part of the child who just tries to go along with the status quo of the family. Danner also brings to the film an emotional role as Ruth, and her scenes where she struggles to remember her children will bring tears to your eyes.
It’s a heartwarming film that tries to shed light on a illness that plagues millions with some humour and lightness to it. After watching it, you’ll want to give a call to a parent or loved one to let them know you love them dearly.


Elevation Pictures releases What They Had in theatres Friday, October 19,  2018

[Review by Jennifer King]

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