The Squid and the Whale (2005)
The title of this film refers to the single positive memory that the teenager Walt could convey to his school psychologist, about a time when he and his mother visited New York's Natural History Museum. Walt's parents, Bernard and Joan, are both writer-snobs, a trait that does not serve their family well after they separate, especially because Joan's career is flourishing and Bernard's is tanking. After a family meeting when they tell Walt and his younger brother Frank that they are separating, the film tracks how everyone takes sides, plays favorites, blames, and manipulates. Fear and insecurity stalk everyone. Whose night is it to take the cat? Joint custody is hell. It's her obligation to pay the tennis instructor. Walt and Frank do poorly in school, drink too much, run away, and experiment sexually as ways to act out. Bernard, an insufferable and self-absorbed egotist, has a fling with one of his college students, while Joan sleeps with the tennis instructor. This film won numerous awards, but I thought it had an ambiguous and unsatisfying ending. . . like those of many families deconconstructed by failed marriages.