Films & Schedules
  • A Serious Man

  • Joel Coen

  • Ethan Coen

Country: USA
English, Hebrew, Yiddish
105 minutes

Saturday September 1209:00PM VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN) Buy Now
Monday September 1409:00AM SCOTIABANK THEATRE 1 Buy Now


Joel and Ethan Coen are at the top of their game, equally at home in serious drama and madcap comedy, working with the biggest stars in the world or unfamiliar talent. Hot on the heels of No Country for Old Men and Burn After Reading, they've switched gears again to deliver a pitch-perfect comic drama that takes them back to their roots in Minnesota – a place they haven't shot in since 1996's Fargo. Dry, hilarious and gloriously absurd, A Serious Man takes the Coens all the way back home.

It's 1967: Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) wants to be taken seriously, but he's assailed on all sides by disrespect. At home, his rotten children steal from his wallet and his wife pesters him for a divorce. She has fallen for their hippie-styled friend Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed) and his empty, feel-good mantras. Worse, Larry's unemployed brother has annexed his couch and the family's only bathroom. He spends an awful lot of time in there draining his cyst. It's no better at work. Larry's up for tenure at his college but a disgruntled student threatens to sabotage his reputation. Desperately clinging to his sanity, Larry seeks counsel from the wise and elusive Rabbi Nachtner (George Wyner). But to get to Nachtner, he has to endure the First Rabbi, and then the Second.

Working with a crack team of actors drawn from Yiddish theatre, the Coens keep the story driving forward and the complications piling up. Blessed with a cosmic sense of life's absurdities, A Serious Man is sharp, precise and superbly structured. Even the contrast of cinematographer Roger Deakins's composed images and the story's increasing chaos is held in perfect balance. But above all, this is a philosophical cry to the heavens, told in sophisticated schtick.

Cameron Bailey

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's first feature, Blood Simple, screened at the Festival in 1984. Their subsequent films include Raising Arizona (87), Miller's Crossing (90), Barton Fink (91), which won both Best Director and the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, The Hudsucker Proxy (94), Fargo (96), which earned an Academy Award® for best original screenplay, The Big Lebowski (98), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (00), The Man Who Wasn't There (01), Intolerable Cruelty (03), The Ladykillers (04), No Country for Old Men (07), which won best picture, best director and best screenplay at the 2007 Academy Awards, Burn After Reading (08) and A Serious Man (09).

Cadillac People's Choice Award