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Reel Critics

Silber and Silber

“13 Conversations About One Thing” is a thoughtful and insightful film

exploring the issue of happiness, or the lack of it, in our lives.

There is a theory that we are born with a level of contentment or


happiness and that this tends to pervade our life experience regardless

of what happens to us.

Our innate optimism or pessimism can influence how we play the cards

dealt to us in life. There are well-documented examples of lottery


winners, after the initial euphoria, feeling as happy as they were or

weren’t before they won, and of trauma victims, again after the initial

depression, who continue to find joy in their life despite being

paralyzed for life. These are not the stories of this film but are at the

heart of the questions asked in this movie.

This film is a window into the lives of 13 people, connected to each

other in varying degrees of intimacy, and how their outlook and

personality affect their life experiences, relatioships with each other


and the choices they make. One’s level of happiness and connectedness are

core issues for each character.

Although with so many characters each must be seen in short vignettes

woven together through the film, we were drawn to each individual as we

watched them struggle with the cause and effect of who they are and how

they approach life.

The cast, all A-list actors, worked as an ensemble, and watching them

inhabit their roles was a joy. Alan Arkin, always a favorite of ours,


does some of his best work here. John Turturro is excellent as a

chronically bored professor feeling “is this all there is?” who can find

no joy or meaning in life no matter what he tries. We watch Clea DuVall

as Beatrice, a basically trusting and optimistic maid. Matthew

McConaughey plays a cocky lawyer who is also the hit-and-run driver that

almost kills her.

The director was a particularly important element in this film and

Jill Spreacher did a superb job weaving the storyline seamlessly, setting

the tone and getting the best from her actors. The script was also

critical and couldn’t have been better written. The cinematography was

beautifully done in dark moody tones. The story is told well by cutting

and mixing the time sequences in an absorbing and coherent way.

All in all, this film is a serious, thought provoking treat. Do see


* Diane and Igal Silber are Laguna Beach residents and avid film buffs