Life During Wartime

DRAMA; 1hr 38min

STARRING: Shirley Henderson, Ciarán Hinds, Allison Janney, Michael Lerner, Chris Marquette, Paul Reubens, Ally Sheedy, Dylan Riley Snyder, Michael Kenneth Williams, Charlotte Rampling

Battle fatigue: from left, Sheedy, Reubens and Henderson

Writer-director Todd Solondz’s Happiness was a phenomenal and horrible dissection of a family that no one would want to belong to. Twelve years down the extremely beaten track, the Jordans — now played by other actors, go figure — are still all messed up with nowhere to go. Weepy, fragile Joy (Henderson) is marked by a past relationship (with Reubens) and her ill-starred marriage to the disturbed Allen (Williams). Trish (Janney) has shifted to Florida and has a new man (Lerner), but her paedophile psychiatrist husband, Bill (Hinds), has been released from prison and is seeking to contact his eldest son (Marquette). Third sister Helen (Sheedy) is swollen with self-pity despite her Hollywood screenplay-writing success. And Trish and Bill’s youngest boy (Snyder) is attempting to come to terms with the reality of his father.


Solondz observes his characters with an anthropologist’s appraising and dispassionate eye, and it’s true that for all the awful events that have befallen them, the self-absorbed Jordans aren’t especially appealing. The pathos of 1998's Happiness was ingrained in its protagonists’ alienation. Life During Wartime is wry, creepy and distressing, but the Jordans’ mutual inability to move forward after so many years makes them a truly lost cause.