Why are all these problems happening to me? What have I done to deserve this and what is the right thing for me to do? What's it all about? These are the large never answerable questions which the directors, or at least the harried hero of this film, Larry Gopnik, would have answered as life confronts him with a series of never remitting fiascos.
His wife wants him to move out of the house to make place for his best friend, who, as Hashem ( a Hebrew appellation for god ) would have it, is killed in an accident, after emptying out the joint bank account of Larry and his wife. His tenure confirmation as a teacher of physics hangs in uncertainty. A Korean student bribes and blackmails him to give him passing grades. This is only a partial list of the miseries of this contemporary Job. He has problems with his children and brother in law, to say nothing of the nightmares. He seeks "enlightenment" by consulting an ascending hierarchy of clerics.
The film concludes with the good news of confirmation of his tenure. This is followed by a bill for $3000 for legal expenses, and an ominous phone call from his doctor seeking a face to face meeting to discuss the result of an X-ray examination. And a storm is brewing afar as the credits begin to roll, and we leave our Larry, beautifully enacted, in the merciless lion-pit.
A fair enough picture of our existence while we are alive. There is a local saying " life is a carnival of those yet alive"(jag jeoondian da mela ). The carnivalesque is notably missing in this take on life. The supposedly grand drama of life fizzles into the bewildering, meaningless and excruciating experience of a young, intelligent and sensitive academic.
Roger Ebert aptly describes it as a "wince-wince" movie. One could regard it as a description of the contemporary human beings confusion about life and reality. Larry is suspended midway between the sterile certainties of science, in terms of which he has moulded himself, and the equal impotence of religion and clerics in the face of the hurricanes looming at the end of the film.
Deserves a second view, not foreseeably.
Roger Ebert's review