As They Made Us is an ode to children with complicated relationships with their parents, who stuck by them even when they knew, and were told they shouldn’t.


Director(s) Mayim Bialik
Screenplay By Mayim Bialik
Date Released 4/5/2022
Where To Watch Video On Demand
Genre(s) Drama, Romance, Young Adult, Family
Duration 1 Hour and 39 Minutes
Content Rating Rated R
Noted Cast
Abigail Dianna Agron
Eugene Dustin Hoffman
Barbara Candice Bergen
Nathan Simon Helberg
Karin Michal Birnbaum
Peter Charlie Weber
Jay Justin Chu Cary
Darrin Julian Gant

Film Summary

For most of her life, Abigail has weathered the storm of her parents, Eugene and Barbara’s, marriage. Whether it was the highs of Eugene passing gas while everyone was in the bathroom or the lows which had him calling their mother anything but a child of God. Abigail was there. Her older brother was there too for every disparaging comment Barbara said, and both of his parents being so cruel that he’d rather not see them for 20 years than be in their presence.

However, with Eugene coming towards the end of his life at 73, Abigail hopes Nathan will reconsider his self-imposed exile or disownment and see their father as he lays on his death bed.

Things To Note

  • Reason(s) for Film Rating: Cursing (throughout the movie), Violence (Eugene smacks Abigail as a child), Miscellaneous (Drinking and conversations about using edibles)

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Did Nathan’s kids ever ask about their cousins or aunts, never mind their grandparents?

Collected Quote(s)

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

Abigail

Abigail (Dianna Agron) smiling meekly
Abigail (Dianna Agron)

For all of Abigail’s life, she has felt like she was in the middle of her parent’s sometimes tumultuous relationship. She was the one who understood her dad, Eugene, the best. Then, when it came to her mom, Abigail was the only one who would put up with her, knew how to talk to her, and not want to abandon her after every insult or faux pas.

Because of this, Abigail sacrificed a lot of her life, even her marriage to Peter, for the sake of her parents, while Nathan got to live his life the way he wanted.

Eugene

At one time, Eugene wanted to be an artist living in the city, but because Barbara wanted a suburban life to raise kids in, he made a compromise. And it seems from then, he made too many to keep her happy, and part of him resented her for it, yet loved her just the same. Thus causing their relationship to be up and down throughout the decades they were together.

Barbara

Barbara is a woman with a sharp tongue who knows how to cut deep. That’s why many don’t bother with her if they don’t have to. From being a gossip to her criticisms, she isn’t most people’s favorite person, and this includes her children – Nathan especially.

Nathan

For a good part of his childhood, Nathan was stuck with his parents and sometimes had to be a surrogate to his sister when Barbara decided she had no desire to be a mother. Because of this, once he was able to, he left and didn’t turn back, thanks to the love of his life, Karin. He got married, had kids, and to his offspring, Eugene and Barbara are strangers, and because Abigail didn’t take Nathan’s advice and leave, so is their aunt.

Karin

Karin is Nathan’s wife, who is presented as one of the reasons why he hasn’t seen his family in nearly 20 years. Though her side of the story isn’t explored much, if at all.

Peter

Peter is Abigail’s ex-husband, who she has two sons with, and because Barbara keeps contacting him, is still very much part of the family.

Jay

Jay is Abigail’s landscaper, who she has feelings for, and goes out with a few times.

Darrin

Darrin is Eugene’s nurse when he starts to get into a really bad state.

Review

Highlights

There Was No Villain, Just People With Flaws

Crafting characters who feel human is tough, especially when it comes to mothers and fathers. Many people have their own baggage, and it makes every mistake, insult, impasse seen on screen just amplify ill will and trigger all kinds of negative emotions. As They Made Us does this but tries to push in there, as much as Eugene had his moments, and Barbara was a consistent barrage of mean-spirited comments to make herself feel better, ultimately, the two were human.

Mind you, we’re not given the nity gritty in terms of Barbara’s background or even Eugene’s, but the beauty of how Bialik made As They Made Us is that you don’t feel the need to have all of that to see a three-dimensional figure in front of you. Eugene loves his kids, both his daughter and son, but raising kids is hard. You have a son who Eugene is clearly a bit envious of and clashes with because he can’t control him or his situation.

Then with Barbara, she gave her life over to being a housewife, and maybe a part of her regrets that? She has made her peace with it, but that hasn’t lessened her looking at her son do great things in education or her daughter becoming a writer for a notable magazine – that still prints its editions. Barbara sees them do so much and she feels left behind, with no one asking for her advice or really for her to be included, and it hurts. Add in her coming from the generation where divorce wasn’t a norm, and she has to also deal with she stuck it out for many moments she should have left, so now being at the end of her husband’s life, there is sorrow in losing him and the need to question, with the kids grown and her perpetually left behind, what’s next?

Dianna Agron

Agron, since 2013’s The Family, has laid low. While there have been surprise appearances in music videos, for the most part, she has stayed very indie, and to find her, you had to seek her. That might have perhaps been for the best, for what is delivered in As They Made Us shows what she has been working on for the last 9+ years: her craft.

For those who remember her in Glee, Agron showed herself as a potential breakout amongst the various multi-hyphenates of the cast, but this is the film that shows us she is the one to be taken note of. As Abigail, Agron is a commanding force whose veterancy in the industry is on full display as she takes control of every scene. And even when the writing is a bit goofy and awkward, like when Abigail is calling her editor drunk, you forgive Agron and give the side-eye to Bialik and the editors for keeping the scene in.

But, what truly deserves praise when it comes to Agron, is that she takes what could have been a mind-numbingly dull movie and gives it life. Be it through humanizing her father and mother, while trying to give her brother grace. Also, when dealing with Peter and Jay, you seeing the frustrations of trying to make it work with an ex and the excitement which comes from the potential of something new.

Peter (Charlie Weber) and Jay (Justin Chu Cary) smiling at Abigail
Peter (Charlie Weber) and Jay (Justin Chu Cary)

In so many facets, including Agron playing a mother to two kids, she taps into everything it means to be Abigail, from trauma to joy, and while no actor in this film is a slouch, they are made all the more better when Agron shares a scene with them.

The Reconciliation

Nathan doesn’t reconcile with everyone, but when it comes to him coming to terms with the effect of his absence, it leads to some very heartbreaking moments. For Abigail, you see her get the person who was her protector, in some ways, back. The one who understood and who she doesn’t have to tell stories to, of either the good or bad times because he was there. And while Nathan doesn’t want to step up as she needs him to, just having him at least willing to begin the process will bring a tear to your eye.

Then, in terms of Nathan and his parents, things get complicated yet are so real. 20 years is a long time to remain separated from someone with any desire to potentially mend fences. Especially when they were given a chance before and refused. So to see Nathan come to a place where, with Abigail’s urging, he is willing to try to show up, even if not fully integrate back into the family? That truly is a nod to anyone who has difficulty trying to live up to the idea of family being there for each other through thick or thin. Even when they mainly seem to bring the worst out of you and those you care about.

Finding Good Help & Keeping It

Nurses of all kinds, whether RNs or home health aides are a blessing, as shown by Darrin. They deal with the patient who is at their worst and people like Barbara, who struggle with accepting what is and the treatment that should be given. It’s a job that clearly is beyond physical labor, but also emotional labor as you must manage so many people who are struggling, with you likely being underpaid to deal with it all.

On The Fence

Wishing We Got To Understand Karin More

Nathan (Simon Helberg) smiling weakly
Nathan (Simon Helberg)

While it is well understood that Nathan’s upbringing and issues with his parents led to his 20-year absence, his partner Karin is also a factor. Sadly, we’re not told to what extent, beyond Barbara and Eugene not apologizing to her after they didn’t go to one of Karin’s family events. This is a shame since it seems Karin created a whole insulated life for Nathan, which even had his own sister on the outs, and you’re not really allowed to understand whether Karin should be seen as Nathan’s savior or the crux between him and his family.

Overall

Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)Recommended

While it is tough to watch at times, As They Made Us is a beautiful acknowledgement to the sometimes troubling relationships between parents and children and how the concept of family is the only thing that keeps many together. And it is through Agron’s performance you not only see her talent as an actor, but everything Bialik seemingly set out to exhibit.

Movie Directory

An old school film reel drawn by artist Dean Nelson.

On The Radar


Ratings

  • Recommended: Some of the best-seen movies we have ever watched and mentioned to friends, family, and strangers as films that need to be seen.
  • Positive (Worth Seeing): Whether you’ll have to go to the movies, download, or stream, movies of this category are worth your time and money with few, if any, qualms from us.
  • Mixed (Divisive): Due to this movie having a few quirks, of which may work for some and for others be a problem, we believe your enjoyment of this movie will depend on your taste.
  • Negative (Acquired Taste): While one or two elements kept us going until the end, unfortunately, we’re of the opinion this film never reached the potential it was marketed to have.

Special Categories/ Tags

  • Indie: By our definition, independent films are films you have to seek to find due to limited availability or lack of a marketing push.
  • Film Festival: Featured in this tag are films and shorts which were discovered thanks to various film festivals, so some of the productions may not have wide availability but still may deserve to be on your watch.
  • Shorts: Be it ten or fifteen minutes, or a half-hour, these quick teases or films get right to the point, often show the potential of filmmakers and the actors who have joined them in their journey.
  • Ending Spoilers: Trying to remember how a film ended, or want a different take on the ending, then check out the "ending spoilers" category. 
Title Card - As They Made Us (2022)
As They Made Us (2022) – Review/ Summary (with Spoilers)
Who Is This For?
Those who love family dramas that could push you to want to speak to that family member you have a strained relationship with.
Highlights
Finding Good Help & Keeping It
The Reconciliation
Dianna Agron
There Was No Villain, Just People With Flaws
Disputable
Wishing We Got To Understand Karin More
85


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I started Wherever I Look back in 2011 and have aimed to be that friend who loves watching various forms of media and talking about it. So, from bias, strong opinions, and a perspective you may not have thought about, you'll find that in our reviews.

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