After putting some make up, Ruth (Blythe Danner) goes out into the Chicago snowy winter wearing only a nightgown and her slippers. Ruth has Alzheimer. She does things like fail to recognize her own children or talk into the stapler when the phone rings. Realizing that she’s gone, her husband Burt (Robert Forster) phones their son, Nicky (Michael Shannon). Then Nicky phones his sister Bridget (Hilary Swank) who flies in from California with her highly depressed/sleepy daughter, Emma (Taissa Farmiga, Vera Farmiga’s younger sister). Burt did not want Bridget to be called, claiming that all is fine and that he can take care of his wife. They find Ruth unharmed, but the problem remains, according to Nicky: What are we going to do with mom? The family members react differently depending on the way they usually respond to crisis. Dad/Burt wants to be in control and thinks he can manage, even though there are ample proofs that he can’t. Nicky, who has already looked for a memory center, rages and rants when nobody listens. Bridget has the perfect solution: Do nothing. And Emma sleeps. This is a complex family portrait, with the family’s dysfunctions (hey, we all came from dysfunctional families) highlighting everyone’s failing in their personal lives. What I liked about What they had is the excellent ensemble cast. What I liked most is the great performances from two veteran actors: Robert Forster and Blythe Danner. Danner is all subtlety here as she bring sweet and sour nostalgic humour to the film. Forster plays the central character in the film. He’s really the master conductor in an orchestra of great actors. I’m hoping to see Danner and Forster be Oscar nominated. Who knows? Only time will tell. In the meantime enjoy!
What they had