Cinema - The Squid and the Whale

Sometimes a film comes out which makes you laugh because you don’t want to cry. The Squid and the Whale is just such a film. It’s all about the fall-out that follows the divorce of two New York intellectuals in the 80’s. The couple, played brilliantly by Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney, have two sons, who both suffer extensive collateral damage from the split-up. The elder son, an adolescent played by Jesse Eisenberg, takes sides with his pompous father, who teaches writing at college but can’t get his second novel published. The younger, an intense 12-year-old loner played by Owen Kline, sympathises with the mother, a successful newspaper columnist.

A corny approach to this increasingly pertinent subject, which you might expect from an American comedy, would have been all preachy and ended up with some sort of redemption as all the protagonists learnt their lessons from the affair. Life, unfortunately, is rarely like that and this film, because it is based on the experiences of the writer-director, understands it. Quite simply everybody gets fucked up as they try to come to terms with the vast changes that the divorce inflicts on their lives. Daniels woos one of his students (Anna Paquin); Linney starts screwing around with the local tennis coach (William Baldwin); Kline becomes fetishistic about his masturbation; Eisenberg tries to pass off Pink Floyd’s Hey You as his own work for a school project. Of course there’s humour in all these situations, but hell, it’s black. And all filmed French Nouvelle Vague style on Super 16 camera. Unmissable.

Split personality: Jeff Daniels tries to cope with the fall-out of his
divorce in The Squid and the Whale

All Saints Cinema, Lewes
When? 8pm
How Much? £4.50
Lewes Film Club
(t) 01273 471588

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