I will see other movies for the rest of the year, and I will get impressed more, awed more, but I don’t think there will be any other film that will touch me more than Elizabeth Chomko’s ‘What We Had.’ I made a lot of sacrifices in my life, and while I do not regret any of my choices, I cannot help but sometimes wonder about ‘what might have been.’ But once in a while, I get a message from the universe that tells me that it doesn’t matter, that we are always exactly where we need to be, and we always end up exactly where we need to end up. This film was one such reminder, and my heart is suddenly overflowing.
The film centers around a family. Ruth’s Alzheimer’s is already progressing, and int he beginning of the film, we see her leaving the house in a snowstorm. This triggers an emergence with her husband Burt (Robert Forster) and their son Nicky (Michael Shannon) who calls his sister Bridget (Hillary Swank) to come help find their mother. She turns out to be fine, this time, but the incident also triggers some lingering questions to be answered. Should they start living in an assisted facility type of domain, as obviously it is getting difficult for them to just be by themselves. Their son is overwhelmed, as he is obviously trying his best to help, being the local one, and he tries to balance this as he runs his own business.
Swank is fantastic. I never really warmed up to her, and at times have exclaimed that she is overrated, but she is great here, balancing the melancholy with humor when needed. You cannot feel but feel for her, and Swank draws you into the emotion. Shannon is drawn less but is even better. You can sense Nicky’s exasperation instantly, and you don’t dislike him even as the character does some self-sabotage. Danner is tenderness and vulnerability and Forster is understandably stubborn. All the actors lend the characters authenticity – you will recognize each and every one of them as people in your own family. When they need to make difficult choices at the end of the film, you cry with them.
And I can certainly identify. This film validates every single feeling I have ever felt when I have been in similar situations – it captures every single one of those emotions perfectly. Maybe some of of you have already felt these things, but if you haven;t, I assure you that you will.