Life-changing events have a way of blowing up a family dynamic. Truth be told, the event is only the fuse that sets off the bomb that’s been ready to explode for years. Sit back for a massive mushroom cloud of dysfunction in Damon Shalit’s The World Without You.
Based on the novel by Joshua Henkin and adapted by Dan Pulick, The World Without You details the lives of the Frankel family. On this Fourth of July weekend, the family gathers to honor youngest son, Leo (Joel Reitsma), who was killed the year before in Iraq as a journalist in hostile territory. As Leo’s Jewish family gathers, old scabs are ripped off quickly.
“…the family gathers to honor youngest son, Leo…who was killed the year before in Iraq…”
Parents Marilyn (Suzanne C. Johnson) and David (Chris Mulkey) announce they are separating for what seems an innocent mistake. Their eldest daughter, Clarissa (Perrey Reeves), wants a baby at this late stage of her life. The orthodox Noelle struggles with the fact that she was the last to see Leo alive when living in Israel.
Adding to this tense family dynamic, sister Lily (Radha Mitchell) has all but given up on her faith and Jewish traditions, only to become a lightning rod of conflict against Lily and her husband, Amram (P.J. Byrne). Lastly, there is Leo’s widow, Thisbe (Lyndie Greenwood). Despite the time that has passed since Leo’s death, she is unsure how the news she is seeing someone new will come across to the husband’s family.
The World Without You plays like an entire season of Parenthood or This Is Us crammed into 90 minutes. The Frankel family’s turmoil starts fast and furious with the perfect blend of passive-aggressive and outright-aggressive behavior. The fights can become overwhelming in the beginning. I felt like that I was that uncomfortable guest at the dinner table watching a family fall apart. These are some really screwed up people.
"…the perfect blend of passive-aggressive and outright-aggressive behavior."