Film Review: A Serious Man

Having only recently seen the Coen Brothers’ latest offer – Inside Llewyn Davis – and having been reminded of A Serious Man after Wittertainment made it their “TV Film of the Week”, I thought is was the perfect way to pass a boring evening at home while the rained continued to lash down outside.

A Serious Man tells the story of a maths teacher, who’s world is in turmoil, spiralling more and more out of control, for what appears to be no reason or fault of his own. The more he searches, the more out of control it becomes. And as is tradition with the Coens’ work, the Jewish faith plays an important role within the plot. Taking almost centre stage within A Serious Man. In my view, the scope given to Judaism isn’t 100% necessary, it doesn’t serve to harm the film either.

I really like this film, for it me truly is the pinnacle of the Coen Brothers’ work. They set out, usually, to make dark comedies, and sadly, as Inside Llewyn Davis showed, have a tendency to create films that promise a lot, but somehow end up being slightly cold and slightly withdrawn. Barton Fink is another example, they entertain but they never quite engage.

A Serious Man is the exception. It really does have a dark sense of humour. It’s entertaining, it’s engrossing and above all, it’s very enjoyable. There is just a beautiful balance throughout the film – it knows it’s a comedy but the whole time never steps too far away from seriousness either. And I could watch it over and over as a result.

There are just so many little touches of brilliance throughout it. From the setting of our main character as a maths teacher – a world ruled by exacts and control – and then taking us on journey through his life as the world around him and all he knows becoming divorced from the safety with which he lives. Teamed up with the overriding realisation that the more he searches for answers, the more the tries to find a solution, to regain control the more out of control and out of depth he becomes.

To, the actions of his children and the moral issues and lessons governing the saying that every action has a reaction. Proved in point by the attempts throughout the film of a fat bully unable to run fast enough to catch his prey, but unable to realise his predicament.

There is however, one slight issue with the film, and it’s still bugging me right now. Richard Kind is cast as Uncle Arthur, and while it’s probably just an issue that will only ever effect me, I just cannot remember for the life of me what else he was in! He has that instantly recognisable face and voice. He was in something, was it House MD, was it Scrubs, was it Spin City?

He has played a role, if only as a cameo that has left such an impression melted onto my mind that I spent the entire film trying to remember where the heck it was – and while the film is good enough and strong enough to survive a multitasking brain so to speak, it does sadly, dampen and temper the enjoyment I would otherwise get.

Don’t let my inability to place one actor put you off though, if you are a fan of the Coen Brothers’ work you have to watch A Serious Man just to see how good they are when they get it right. But, if like many, you’re just a fan of movies in general, still watch it because I really think it is that good!

8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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