The Squid and the Whale

Starring Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney and Jesse Eisenberg
Written and directed by Noah Baumbach
USA 2005
81 mins

Brooklyn 1986 - Bernard and Joan Berkman are a New York literary couple who have decided to separate. They tell their two teenage sons Walt and Frank that Bernard is moving out. Bernard's once promising career as a novelist is in decline while Joan's writing is becoming acclaimed - an added source of tension between them during this already difficult period.

Director Noah Baumbach is a frequent collaborator with Wes Anderson - the quirky and distinctive director of The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Anderson produced this movie and some of his influence can be seen in this film's tone and style. However The Squid And The Whaleeschews the whimsy of Anderson's work for a far more direct and bitter portrait of a disintegrating family. Baumbach's script is heavily autobiographical and often very funny - managing to combine uncomfortable and sometimes excruciating  truth with hilarious satire and characterisation. 

The cast do a brilliant job led by Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney as the warring parents enlisting the support of their children in the battle. Jesse Eisenberg is the eldest son who is heavily influenced by his father and falls for his new girlfriend. Eisenberg has become one of the leading actors of his generation including a stand out turn in David Fincher's The Social Network as Facebook inventor Mark Zuckerberg.

Shot on handheld super 16mm The Squid And The Whale features an excellent folk-inflected soundtrack including contributions from Loudon Wainwright, Kate and Anna McGarrigle and Bert Jansch. The film won writing and direction prizes at the Sundance Festival as well as numerous other awards in that year. 

Exquisitely painful, root-canal-jabbingly uncomfortable, this black comedy from writer-director Noah Baumbach based on his parents' breakup is bittersweet without the sweet.' 
Peter Bradshaw - The Guardian