Garden State

Director: Zach Braff
Screenwriters: Zach Braff

Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


Garden State is the kind of quirky romantic comedy that used to be a staple of Hollywood. Masters of the form reinvented them for each new generation, giving them a specificity and relevance that audiences embraced, e.g., Harold and Maude and The Graduate. And without overstating things, Garden State makes an excellent case for writer/director/actor Zach Braff evolving into the Woody Allen of his time. Needless to say, Garden State is clever. But it's the honesty, self-deprecation, and imagination of this study of a young man's search for himself that place it above the pedestrian reach of Braff's peers.

The story begins when Andrew Largeman returns to his hometown for the funeral of his clinically depressed mother, a journey that reconnects him with some of his past friends. Because the trip coincides with his decision to stop taking his powerful antidepressants, he also begins to reconnect with himself. A chance meeting with Sam (Natalie Portman), a girl also suffering from various maladies, opens up the possibility of rekindling emotional attachments, confronting his psychologist father, and perhaps beginning a new life.

Comedy is hard to pull off. Only the exceptionally talented can prompt laughter while also provoking those deep feelings within us for the human frailty on the screen. Garden State is that kind of rare film.

(Archives note: see also Zach Braff's Meet The Artist interview on our YouTube Channel.)

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]