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Thirteen Conversations about One Thing

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jan
Thirteen Conversations about One Thing
from Film Forum, 06/06/02

Meanwhile, a mainstream film had both religious press and mainstream media critics doing some soul-searching in their reviews. Thirteen Conversations About One Thing comes from director Jill Sprecher, and it stars Matthew McConaughey, John Turturro, Amy Irving, Clea DuVall, William Wise, and Alan Arkin. It has audiences reflecting on the need for love and compassion in everyday interactions.

The movie concerns four characters fighting to find a moral compass in the confusion and chaos of their lives. There's an arrogant lawyer (McConaughey) who tries to cover up a hit and run he committed. A college professor (Turturro) becomes unsettled about his marital infidelity after his life is threatened. A open-minded, compassionate, people-loving housekeeper (DuVall) struggles with her perspective after a terrible accident. And an insurance-claims adjuster (Arkin) wrestles with his temper as an annoyingly kind coworker provokes him to wrongdoing.

A critic at the USCCB praises the cast, especially Arkin, and writes: "Although the film's tone is solemn to the point of gloomy, most of the characters eventually make tiny steps toward hope and renewal and this comes across in understated, credible ways, in gestures as simple as a wave or a smile. The film reminds the audience how one never realizes the profound effect a look of kindness or simple word of encouragement can have on a troubled person. And this comes directly from two incidents in the director's own life which plunged her into hateful anger until a stranger's smile stopped her in her tracks."

Tom Snyder (Movieguide) calls the film "a brilliant, funny, quietly moving piece of work. A Christian worldview and a morally uplifting theme help to redeem the movie's occasional strong foul language and a minor scene of heroin use."

Peter Travers (Rolling Stone) says, "It takes awhile for this oddball film—a mosaic of stories in the style of Magnolia—to take hold, but when it does, it grabs you hard. Sprecher reaches deep into the minds and hearts of her characters in a haunting and hypnotic film that, aptly enough, is a real conversation starter."