Depictions of battles between giant squids and sperm whales always portray a battle of attrition. Two evenly matched enemies battling to an uncertain conclusion. These images of an irresistible force engaging an immovable object serve as the perfect metaphor for the conflict that erupts between two parents during and, on occasions, following their divorce.
Noah Baumbach’s tale of a quasi-intellectual couple, their divorce and its effect on their children is one that is clearly borne of its director’s personal experiences. The characters, the plot and the dialect all appear natural and this honest depiction of familial division avoids the melodrama, contrived narratives and maudlin sentiment that have blighted so many other texts that have attempted to address this topic.
Custody battles, inner turmoil, post-divorce relationships and partisanship are all represented adroitly and with sensitivity and humour. Each character and their individual motivations are believable. This films was not made to entertain, it was made by a director who needed to liberate himself from the residual pain of his parents’ divorce. When writing and presiding over the creation of this film, Baumbach was engaging in a cathartic act. This film is more than capable of educating divorcing parents and children, but Baumbach did not intend to make a film that preached to its audience, he merely intended to tell a story. We may be able to learn from his accurate portrayal of divorce and its effects, but this is inadvertent.
The Squid and the Whale is a wonderfully authentic film that I would advise to anyone that has been affected by a divorce. In fact, I would recommend it to anyone.