“Anger is my refuge, my shield, my birthright.”–Henry Altmann
All of us have had bad days; some of us have bad lies. It’s not necessarily because everything goes wrong, but because of how we handle it or receive it. It’s the classic case of half-empty or half-full. Henry Altmann (Robin Williams) has lost the joy of his life thanks to the death of one of his sons, and he’s spent the time since being angry at the world. He’s bitterly angry at perceived slights, confrontations, and the unexpected diagnosis of a brain aneurysm that he receives from his accidental doctor, Sharon (Mila Kunis), who isn’t have such a great life herself. When their worlds collide, the results are entertaining, moving, and applicable to our lives.
Henry’s diagnosis as he understands it, that he has ninety minutes to live, sends him on a journey to reconcile with his wife (Melissa Leo), with his ballroom dancing son (Hamish Linklater, who appears in Williams’ TV show, The Crazy Ones), with his brother (Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage), and with others he’s harmed along the way. It parallels Sharon’s own come-to-Jesus hour and a half, as she realizes that she used to love medicine and her patients, and now she hides from her life in medicine and by pushing her patients through the system.
In one of the more interesting moments in the film, Henry videotapes himself, a final testament of his love for his son. He becomes angrier and angrier as he speaks, finally screaming into the camera, “how could there be a god?” It’s telling, this parable wrapped around a bad day in Brooklyn because it ultimately becomes director Phil Alden Robinson’s (Field of Dreams, Sum of All Fears) testament to how we get lost inside our grief, and how we fail to recognize the moments where we experience joy. It’s a reminder that too often we give ourselves the credit when we succeed but we blame God when things go wrong. Instead, we need to see the beauty of what God has given us, and recognize that in our pain, suffering, and grief, that God cries, too.
In the end, Henry and Sharon save each other in a darkly comic tale about losing oneself in the city and finding oneself in the midst of community. It’s beautiful and deep, and it highlights one of life’s greatest truths: we need each other.