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Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (15)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

'LIFE only makes sense when you can see it in reverse; it's just a shame you have to live it going forwards'.

This profound yet thought-provoking statement is uttered by one of the characters of Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, an intriguing, if downbeat, collection of inter-connected stories about love, life and fate.

Directed by Jill Sprecher, from a screenplay by herself and co-writing sister, Karen, the film has actually been around since 2002 but only now emerges in UK cinemas boasting a strong ensemble cast and more than its fair share of whimsical talking points.

The story picks up as a middle-aged physics professor, played by John Turturro, makes a life-altering decision in a bid to break free from the confines of his rigid existence.

How this works out for him is contrasted by the fortunes of several different characters, including Matthew McConaughey's confident lawyer, whose optimistic outlook on life is shattered by a car accident, and by Alan Arkin's unhappy businessman, who takes out his frustrations on a happy go-lucky colleague.

Clea Duvall also crops up as an optimistic cleaner who is forced to endure her own crisis of confidence following an accident that almost claims her life.

Though contrived in places, and certainly pessimistic in others, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing is a film that intelligently explores the role of fate (and belief) in contemporary society without ever resorting to heavy-handed tactics.

It remains rooted in reality, despite taking on some surrealistic qualities, and refuses to cop out by pandering to the mainstream need for a clear and happy ending.

Life goes on for just about all of the characters, but each has been changed and influenced by the events in some way.

Watching just how the threads of each tale tie themselves together is one of the many joys of watching the film unfold, as is the quality of the performances - even though some are afforded more screen-time than others.

Hence, Arkin emerges as the pick of the bunch, oozing dissatisfaction at the world around him, but is ably supported by McConaughey, also excellent in what proves to be a very understated turn for him.

Turturro is typically strong, too, expertly conveying his mounting sense of despair at the choices he has made for himself, even though he isn't afforded as much time to do so.

Whether you agree with some of its musings, or fail to sympathise with some of the characters' predicaments, there's no denying that Thirteen Conversations has plenty to get you thinking.

It would therefore be unlucky to miss out on such a contemplative experience, especially if you find the notion of fate intriguing.


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