What They Had

Director: Elizabeth Chomko
Screenwriters: Elizabeth Chomko


During a bout of dementia, Ruth (Blythe Danner) gets out of bed at night and wanders off into a blizzard. Ruth’s brief disappearance triggers the homecoming of her daughter Bridget (Hilary Swank) and teenage granddaughter Emma (Taissa Farmiga). The episode also renews lifelong tensions between stubborn patriarch Burt (Robert Forster) and estranged son Nicky (Michael Shannon). As they all debate placing Ruth into a memory-care facility, family ties begin to fray, rekindling a rivalry between the adult siblings.

Elizabeth Chomko's tough but tender debut drama sensitively explores the trials, traumas, and unexpected moments of levity that come with caring for a parent with Alzheimer's disease. Danner's poignant portrayal of a woman who can feel her identity slipping away is matched by a strong ensemble cast, who bring a ragged, lived-in quality to their roles and relationships. By turns moving, troubling, and unexpectedly funny, What They Had avoids the easy sentimentality of the disease-drama genre to offer a full family portrait—in all its messy complexity.

— M.C.

Screening Details

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