A film about the emotional, financial and practical struggle of a bitter divorce – the relevance of the obscure title only becomes clear towards the end. The story is broadly based on director Baumbach and his brother’s teenage experiences of their parents divorce in Brooklyn in the 80s. Jeff Daniels excels as the insufferable, competitive father, a creative writer who has failed to deliver after early promise. Laura Linney, the mother, rather provokingly has become a successful novelist herself. The son’s watch as relationship shatters.
Baumbach’s personal insights allow him to make acute observations about what happens to the kids when mum and dad break up. Working again with Wes Anderson (The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou) Baumbach’s script is mocking, sharp and intelligent. Despite the success of the filter of black humour, the film touches us emotionally, connecting with the pain, confusion and alienation of divorce. It’s a powerful mix likely to stay with you long after this short film has ended.
Agonisingly direct, and also very funny. All four family members give wonderful performances, especially Daniels as the monstrous novelist, desperately failing and flailing in confusion and fear. Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
Yet by the end, which is not conventionally happy, its deliberately unresolved and certainly not sentimental, we look with sympathy at all four principal characters, however badly they’ve behaved. Philip French, The Observer
You’ll laugh, you’ll wince, you’ll wonder why films twice this long are rarely half as good. Matthew Leyland, BBCi Films.