‘This Is Where I Leave You’ is a family dramedy movie that revolves around four adult siblings who reunite in their childhood home for their father’s funeral. As time passes, their old issues, secrets, and desires resurface. With their completely polarizing opinions and personalities, the siblings must spend a week under the same roof to fulfill their father’s dying wish.
The 2014 Shawn Levy directorial encapsulates the fragile relationships of the Altman family. If you were submerged in the relatable banter and outbursts in the lives of the members of the Altman family, you might wonder if there’s any truth to the story. If you resonate with that thought, here’s everything you must know!
This Is Where I Leave You is Based on Jonathan Tropper’s Novel
No, ‘This Is Where I Leave You’ is not based on a true story. The movie is inspired by the eponymous novel by Jonathan Tropper, who also wrote the screenplay. The story unfolds at a religious ceremony in Judaism, i.e., “sitting shiva,” which is a period of mourning where the deceased person’s loved ones heal emotionally and spiritually. In the movie, the family sits “shiva” for a week, and the whole drama occurs in this time frame.
Jonathan left out a few dark chapters while creating the screenplay; for example, he skipped Judd’s flashbacks with Paul because they did not match the tonality of the movie. Another omitted chapter is the one entirely imagined by Judd, and the reason for not including it is the limitations of time and staying on track while devising a movie for the screen. The director Shawn Levy was also open about the problem of sacrificing great material from the book due to issues of pacing.
In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, Jonathan was asked about the motives behind writing this book. He replied. “I wasn’t trying to write a book about shiva. I was just trying to write a book about a man who is sent into a reexamination of his life. It started out with Judd coming home and finding his wife in bed with his boss — the premise of it was if you’re a suburban man and you lose your wife, your job, and your home, do you actually exist? It was just supposed to follow Judd as he figures out his life after it’s been totally upended.”
The author revealed that he wanted to humble the character of Judd, and initially, the story was about him going home for a birthday party. When he penned down the dynamics between the primary character and his family, he saw the book come to life. Jonathan had to find a reason for this interaction to be prolonged, so he changed the family’s religion to Judaism and used the practice of “shiva” to extend the storyline.
Even though these are fictional characters, writing about their past and interpersonal relationships is quite difficult for the writer because the emotions they experience are still raw and hard-hitting. Jonathan briefly touched upon the same, saying, “The hardest chapters in the book were the ones that take you back to the relationship between Judd and his older brother and the history of the damage between them. It was hard to get that right, tonally, to hit all the right emotional notes without being too dark.”
He added, “And that’s something that isn’t in the movie at all because it was tonally askew for what we were doing in the movie.” The movie effortlessly showcases how a dysfunctional family interacts and how all the members have turned to wit and jokes to deal with their grief. Using humor to undermine one’s emotions or reduce mental agony is an age-old coping mechanism. To put it objectively, there is nothing right or wrong here; it is just an adaptive strategy humans use, much like the movie’s Altman family.
Lastly, elaborating on the message he wished to share through the story of the Altmans, Jonathan said, “…to me, the takeaway from the book and film is that family will save you, whether you want them to or not.” Taking everything into account, we reiterate that ‘This Is Where I Leave You’ is not based on a true story, but the complexities of familial relationships in the movie are quite realistic. Even though most interactions are depicted through humor, they are layered with the intricacies of a character’s inner turmoil and desires.
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