Film Forum: Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York”

Reviews for Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York are piling up at GreenCine Daily.

I’ll post other memorable responses here soon. I’m seeing the film on Thursday, and, if all goes as planned, interviewing Kaufman on Friday. If you have any questions for him, let me know.

Here’s Alissa Wilkinson’s review at Christianity Today Movies, an admirable summation of a very complex film. Well done, Alissa!

Make no mistake: Synecdoche starts out plausibly enough, but by the end it has completely (and purposefully) veered off into fairy-tale territory. At this point in his career, writer/director Charlie Kaufman could be called the founder, or at least the patriarch, of a cinematic brand of naturalistic surrealism. This is his directorial debut, but he’s best known for writing brain-benders Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation, and Being John Malkovich. Kaufman has a unique voice in today’s cinema. He can take a twisted premise that only occasionally dovetails with the real world and still somehow strike a chord in the audience’s consciousness.

At its core, Synecdoche, New York is a brilliant, gut-wrenching plunge into the painful work of facing the decisions we make and choosing to either continue onward, or live in regret. It’s a powerful reminder that the choices we make each day matter — not just in our own lives, but in the lives of those around us. Those looking for some light entertainment to go along with their popcorn will likely come away frustrated, but those who are willing to take the plunge will find plenty to chew on for a long time.


I just saw the film, and I’m overwhelmed. It’s a profound, and profoundly disturbing, piece of work, depicting one man’s desperate and relentless search for meaning and consolation in a world where fulfillment can only be found through art and human relationship. Sadly, God is not a part of this man’s perspective.

I spoke with Kaufman last night at a public Q&A, and this morning in a small round-table interview. I’ll be writing that up for you soon.

In the meantime, here’s another article by Liz Ohanesian in the LA Weekly, which explores Kaufman’s first experience as a director.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.

  • alissamwilkinson

    My review goes up at CT next week. It’s definitely an exhausting film, but well worth it (IMHO).