A Serious Man

Synopsis: Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a physics professor at a 1960s university, but his life is coming apart at the seams. His wife (Sari Lennick) is leaving him, his jobless brother (Richard Kind) has moved in, and someone is trying to sabotage his chances for tenure. Larry seeks advice from three different rabbis, but whether anyone can help him overcome his many afflictions remains to be seen.
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Production: Focus Features
  Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 17 wins & 72 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
106 min



The flakes drift lazily down toward us. Our angle looks straight up.

Now an angle looking steeply down: the snow falls not quite dead away to collect on a

foreground chimneypot and on the little shtetl street that lies maplike below us.

It is night, and quiet, and the street is deserted except for one man who walks away from

us, his valenki squeaking in the fresh snow. He leads a horse and cart.

We cut down to street level. The man walks toward us, bearded, and bundled against the

cold. Smiling, he mutters in Yiddish—the dialogue subtitled.


What a marvel . . . what a marvel. . .


Its door opens and the man enters.




Yes. . .

The man crosses to the stove with a bundle of wood. Dora’s voice continues:

. . . Can you help me with the ice?

The man dumps the wood into a box by the stove as his wife enters with an ice pick. pick.

. . . I expected you hours ago.


You can’t imagine what just happened. I was coming back

on the Lublin road when the wheel came off the cart—

thank heavens it was the way back and I’d already sold the



How much?


Fifteen groshen, but that’s not the story. I was struggling to

set the cart upright when a droshky approaches from the

direction of Lvov. How lucky, you think, that someone is

out this late.


Yes, very remarkable.


But that’s the least of it! He stops to help me; we talk of

this, we talk of that—it turns out this is someone you know!

Traitle Groshkover!

His wife stares at him as he beams. He takes the stare as a sign that she can’t place the


. . . You know, Reb Groshkover! Pesel Bunim’s uncle!

The chacham from Lodz, who studied under the Zohar reb

in Krakow!

Still she stares. Then, quietly:


God has cursed us.




Traitle Groshkover has been dead for three years.

Laughter erupts from the man but, as his wife continues to stare at him, he strangles on it.


Wind whistles under the eaves.

The man says quietly:

Traitle Groshkover has been dead for three years.

Laughter erupts from the man but, as his wife continues to stare at him, he strangles on it.


Wind whistles under the eaves.

The man says quietly:


Why do you say such a thing! I saw the man! I talked to



You talked to a dybbuk. Traitle Groshkover died of typhus

in Pesel Bunim’s house. Pesel told me—she sat shiva for


They stare at each other. Outside, the wind quickens.

A rap at the door.

Neither husband nor wife immediately respond.

Finally, to her husband:

. . . Who isit?


I . . . invited him here. For some soup, to warm himself.

The wind moans.

. . . He helped me, Dora!


We are looking in from the outside as the door unlatches and creaks in, opened by the

husband in the foreground, who has arranged his face into a strained look of greeting. In

the background the wife stares, hollow-eyed.


Reb Groshkover! You are welcome here!

Reverse on Reb Groshkover: a short, merry-looking fellow with a bifurcated beard. He

gives a little squeal of delight.

Reb Groshkover

You are too kind, Velvel! Too kind!

He steps into the house and sees the wife staring at him.

. . . And you must be Dora! So much I have heard of you!

Yes, your cheeks are pink and your legs are stout! What a

wife you have!

The husband chuckles nervously.


Yes! A ray of sun, a ray of sun! Sit!


My husband said he offered you soup.

Reb Groshkover

Yes, but I couldn’t possibly eat this late, or I’d have

nightmares. No, no: no soup for me!


I knew it.

Reb Groshkover laughs.

Reb Groshkover

I see! You think I’m fat enough already!

He settles, chuckling, into his chair, but Dora remains sober:


No. A dybbuk doesn’t eat.

Reb Groshkover stares at her, shocked.

The wife holds his look, giving no ground.

The husband looks from wife to Reb Groshkover, apprehensive.

A heavy silence.

Reb Groshkover bursts into pealing laughter.

Reb Groshkover

What a wife you have!

He wipes away tears of merriment; the husband relaxes, even begins to smile.


I assure you, Reb Groshkover, it’s nothing personal; she

heard a story you had died, three years ago, at Pesel

Bunim’s house. This is why she think you are a dybbuk; I,

of course, do not believe in such things. I am a rational


Reb Groshkover is still chuckling.

Reb Groshkover

Oh my. Oh my yes. What nonsense. And even if there

were spirits, certainly. . .

He thumps his chest.

. . . I am notone of them!


Pesel always worried. Your corpse was left unattended for

many minutes when Pesel’s father broke shmira and left

the room—it must have been then that the Evil One—

She breaks off to spit at the mention of the Evil One.

—took you!

Reb Groshkover is terribly amused:

Reb Groshkover

“My corpse!” Honestly! What a wife you have!


Oh yes? Look, husband. . .

She steps forward to the reb, who looks enquiringly up at her.

. . . They were preparing the body. Pesel’s father shaved

one cheek. . .

As his eyes roll down to look at her hand, she draws it across his smooth right cheek.

. . . Then he left the room. He came back, and shaved the

other. . .

She reaches across to the other cheek, Reb Groshkover’s eyes following her hand—

. . . You were already gone!

—and drags her fingers across. A bristly sound.

Reb Groshkover laughs.

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Joel Coen

Joel Coen was born on November 29, 1954 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA as Joel Daniel Coen. He is a producer and writer, known for No Country for Old Men (2007), The Big Lebowski (1998) and Fargo (1996). He has been married to Frances McDormand since April 1, 1984. They have one child. more…

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