Dysfunctional families and their apparent inability to get along with each other, even at times of crisis when circumstance pulls them back together, is a story we’re all incredibly familiar with. Whether it’s through our own experience or the endless amount of attention afforded by Hollywood storytelling, we know what it is means when familial bonds are stretched to breaking point by impromptu revelations in a close-quarters environment: secrets are unearthed, truths are told, tears are shed and relationships are strengthened. Such is the journey of This is Where I Leave You, in which the Altman family are brought back together following the passing of the father and who are now, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of significant others, forced to spend a week living together under the same roof.
This is the first real flaw of This is Where I Leave You. Whilst characters do get maybe one moment of “honesty”, that bit where they just can’t keep it in any longer and come clean about their one big complaint in life, they all reach the same volume, so just become a dull roar of temporary discontent. Every story has something that could become interesting, but gets clipped for the sake of all the others. It’s a weird kind of democratic mediocrity. It seems to aim for balance, but actually just achieves blandness. Perhaps Jonathan Tropper just felt too uneasy about hacking away parts of his own novel in the adaptation process and, in doing so, ended up smothering the whole. Television could have served this sprawl of characters better, but film just doesn’t offer enough room for development.
There’s no real detriment to seeing This is Where I Leave You, except to say that it won’t satisfy in the realm of either laughter or tears. You’ll like everyone in it, you won’t hate yourself for seeing it, and it’ll be a decent way of killing 103 minutes. But it won’t stay with you, won’t reveal anything profound to you, and probably won’t ever cross your viewing list again. A single viewing is pretty much where you’ll leave it.