A Serious Man is a movie about the unknown and the unknowable. It is about uncertainty, it is about mystery, it is about bad luck, and it is about misery. There is nothing in A Serious Man that is easy to discern on the first viewing, but one may feel reticent to watch it immediately after viewing it the first time; after all, it is as bleak as a movie could possibly be.
After a brief prologue (bearing only thematic relation to the rest of the film), A Serious Man introduces us to Professor Larry Gopnik. Almost immediately, his wife informs him that she is leaving him for widower Sy Ableman (his wife is barely cold). I would not like to reveal too much more, but I will say this: it gets worse. And throughout the entire movie, all Larry can think to say to all of this misfortune is “but I didn’t do anything!”
And that is just the problem. Larry didn’t do anything to make his wife leave him. In fact, he didn’t do anything to deserve all of the misfortune that falls upon him. The misfortunes fall upon him precisely because he is a man of inaction. He is ignored, steamrolled over, or just plain abused because of it. He comes to turn to God for guidance, but he merely wants God to give him an answer instead of trying to fix his life for himself. Larry doesn’t deserve any of his bad luck… but that doesn’t mean he didn’t bring it upon himself.A Serious Man is a movie that is perfectly casted, perfectly written, perfectly shot, perfectly scored, perfectly acted, and perfectly paced. It is my favorite movie of 2009, a year that gave us Adventureland, The Bad Lieutenant – Port of Call: New Orleans, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, and on and on and on. It may be dark and difficult to watch, but it is a brilliant modern day fable about the dangers of inaction, the random nature of the universe, and uncertainty in general… or maybe it isn’t. How the Hell should I know?