"It's like... we were pals then... we'd do things together... we'd look at the knight armor at the Met. The scary fish at the Natural History Museum. I was always afraid of the squid and whale fighting. I can only look at it with my hands in front of my face."
The Squid and the Whale follows two young boys dealing with their parents’ divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980s.
The film starts out with a tennis game. The tension between the characters is already seen. Bernard (Jeff Daniels) and Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) are playing against Joan (Laura Linney) and Frank (Owen Kline). The game gets more intense as seconds pass. Bernard begins hitting the ball aggressively before hitting Joan in the chest with the ball.
Joan and Bernard are seen arguing in the next cut. This starts the film and foreshadows what comes next.
Divorce is a heavy confusing time especially when you’re old enough to know what’s going on. You have the fighting. You have conversations discussing custody agreements.
Over the course of the film, we get to know each and every character. As well as how the family lives and interacts with each other, and other people. Walt is in high school dealing with his own interests and confusing, while Frank is more apparent in dealing with puberty (he begins to masturbates everywhere). Joan and Bernard try to understand their children and what is best for them while dealing with the divorce.
This film is beautifully written and directed by Noah Baumbach. He created a film that explores family dynamics. You start to really think about what your family is like after watching The Squid and the Whale. It’s really interesting to think about how everyone’s family is different. Being raised as a child of divorce or not, there comes many differences. Walt resembles Bernard heavily, while Frank is more like Joan.
There’s a scene where Frank tells Joan, “Why are you so ugly?" And it is the saddest subtleness of it that destroys me in t-minus 8 seconds. Walt tells his girlfriend, “I wish you didn’t have so many freckles." This is also so horrible—it really just shows how they were raised.
At the end of the film, we see the family grow and expand upon the divorce. Walt explains how he wishes he was still close to his mother, and how he was always scared to look at the squid and the whale in the Natural History Museum. His mother would always have to describe what it looked like for him.
Walt and Frank soon realize that it is what it is, and joint custody blows but their relationships with each other should not. Joan and Bernard go separate ways exploring new relationships while remembering the one they had before.
The Squid and the Whale is available to stream and buy.