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Tolstoy said “the greatest surprise in life is old age”; haunting veracity of this phrase glibly informs the scenario of writer/director Elizabeth Chomok’s “What They Had”; a refined portrait of diminishment; “Ruth Everhardt” (sublime, Blyth Danner) is enmired in the quicksand of “Alzheimer’s”, its pathos affecting “Burt” (Robert Forster is galvanizing) her desperately devoted husband;  “Nick” (irrepressible Michael Shannon) beleaguered, frustrated son and “Bridget”, a placating daughter (Hilary Swank gives another deep, rarefied performance), floundering in her twenty-year marriage, she and her obstreperous daughter “Emma” (Taissa Farmiga) try to salvage an untenable, exacerbating, escalating dilemma: putting Ruth in a care facility.

There is a disquieting familiarity as emotions pulverize reason; love cripples practicality; pain’s rawness infects the dynamism of family interactions; a contemporary quandary, universally experienced.

Blyth Danner’s depiction infuses hilarity, charm and demented wisdom to Ruth’s encroaching “vanishment”; on par with the inimitable performances of Julie Christie in 2006’s “Away From Her” and Julianne Moore in her Academy Award winning “Still Alice”, 2014.

“What They Had”, quietly profound, devoid of sensationalism; its thundering message, leaves one acknowledging, fearing the stalking insidiousness of this indiscriminate disease.





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