AS THEY MADE US
As They Made Us follows Abigail (Agron), a divorced mother of two, who is struggling to find sanity in her dysfunctional family as she attempts to cultivate new love. Her father, Eugene (Hoffman), has a degenerative condition that he and his wife, Barbara (Bergen), refuse to accept. Her brother Nathan (Helberg) has been estranged from the family for decades. A self-appointed fixer, Abigail attempts to mend her complicated family before it’s too late.
Mayim Bialik‘s feature debut packs an emotional punch. As They Made Us feels like a fresh wound for anyone with childhood trauma. Brilliantly structured with flashbacks and present-day chaos, Bialik weaves a portrait of a family existing in turmoil.
Simon Helberg plays the son who escaped the weight of negativity. Estranged from the family, he leaves Abigail (Agron) behind to take the brunt of the aggression. Helberg plays a vastly different role from Bialik’s costar on The Big Bang Theory, and her script allows Helberg to show his range. Dustin Hoffman is patriarch Eugene. Navigating his cognitive decline, Hoffman plays dual roles in a way. At times, happy go lucky and defiant, others violent and loud. His journey is the most outwardly complex. Candace Bergen is the epitome of Jewish mother cliches, with a real mean streak. She lands somewhere in between abrasive and meddling. Still managing to be charming, Bergen brings heightened energy to the film.
Dianna Agron is the default child, the emotional packhorse. Taking on caregiver roles that ought to belong to Bergen’s Barbara, Agron must shift between daughter, nurse, and wife roles to ease Eugene’s suffering. These are all at her own cost as she carries these scars. Agron is the star of this film. Even with Hoffman and Bergen, she steals the show. Her exhaustion is palpable.
The family’s Jewish faith is a significant plot point. It becomes a large part of Abigail’s coping mechanisms, parenting, and healing. The character reminds me a lot of my Mother. Replace Judaism with Catholicism, and I’ve witnessed this same story play out a generation before. As They Made Us speaks volumes in roughly 90 minutes. Tackling forgiveness, acceptance, and mortality, Bialik’s voice as a filmmaker is pretty striking for her first time out. I am eager to see what comes next.
OPENS APRIL 8, 2022
IN THEATERS AND DIGITAL / VOD
Writer & Director: Mayim Bialik
Cast: Dianna Agron and Simon Helberg, with Candice Bergen, Dustin Hoffman, Justin Chu Cary, Charlie Weber, and Julian Gant
Producers: Jordan Beckerman, Ash Christian, Anne Clements, Michael Day, Jordan Yale Levine, Mark Maxey
Runtime Time: 96 minutes
Rated: R for language