Written By Darren
Rating 7 out of 10
As They Made Us explores the joys and struggles of life and family in this wonderful dramedy that features a great cast and a strong writing and feature film directorial debut from Mayim Bialik.
I’m always a sucker for a well written family dramedy, and that is exactly what Bialik has done with her first feature film. Best known for her role as Amy on The Big Bang Theory and Blossom on Blossom, Bialik steps behind the camera and into the writer’s chair, proving that not only is she a great actress but a wonderful storyteller as well. Independent films can too often go by unnoticed, even with a cast that includes such stars as Dustin Hoffman and Candice Bergen, but hopefully this film won’t go by unnoticed as it truly was delightful and entertaining from start to finish.
The film follows Abigail trying to hold her family today as she cares for her father who is succumbing to a terminal illness, while juggling her over dominating and highly opinionated mother and estranged brother. No family is perfect, but that’s what makes stories about families so captivating as it always makes for a dynamic story. But the family at the centre of this film is truly dysfunctional, but it’s in the mayhem where Bialik finds something truly honest to say. The film explores the abuse that Abigail and her brother faced from their father growing up and the complex feelings that creates within a child. On one hand, they know that the actions of their father are wrong, but they are conflicted because they love him. It follows them to their adult life, creating strained and complicated relationships between the main characters that Bialik explores wonderfully in her screenplay. Whether it be the estranged son returning home, the manic actions of the mother of the family, or that incredibly tense birthday party, every moment in the film captures the wide spectrum of emotions at play, guaranteeing that you will be laughing hysterically one moment while the film tugs on your heart strings in the next moment.
As a director, Bialik extracts truly excellent performances from her entire cast that brings the story to life. Dianna Agron is outstanding as Abigail. After watching her for years on Glee, it was so nice to see Agron again in a film, and she was the perfect fit for this role. She handled the comedic moments exactly as was required of her, same with the budding romance with the man working on her garden. But it is in the quiet moments where she is caring for her father that she excels and gives the more powerful moments of her performance. Bergen is absolutely hilarious as Abigail’s mother Barbara, never failing to leave you laughing hysterically while also creating a sympathetic character that you can’t help but feel for as she slowly watches the love of her life lose the ability to live. Hoffman as always is wonderful as Eugene, perfectly capturing his decline in health while bringing a much needed warmth to every scene to combat the heavier subject matter the film tackles. And last but not least is Simon Helberg as Nathan, the estranged son returning home. Helberg captures the emotions of the role with ease as the conflicted son who is processing the fact that his father is dying, while bottling up a hatred for his parents after years of behavior he has experienced by them. It’s a nuanced performance that never gets over dramatic, but embellishes at all the right moments and plays into Helberg’s quirky energy.
While the film is not perfect and did have some slight pacing problems, it’s a perfect showcase of Bialik’s talents as a director and I cannot wait to see what she does next. Simultaneously heartfelt and laugh out loud funny, As They Made Us shines due to its talented cast but mostly because of the excellent writing and directorial debut of the ever talented Mayim Bialik.