Reel Dad: Director Steven Soderbergh explores friendship dynamics in 'Let Them All Talk'

Over the years, the friendships we share in college may change. People choose separate paths, make their own choices and face individual challenges. As much as we may promise to “stay in touch” and reconnect to share memories of what we experienced together, differences emerge that can challenge even the closest of friendships.

Steven Soderbergh’s thoughtful film, “Let Them All Talk,” is worth talking about because of its cast - Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen and Dianne Wiest playing substantive roles - as well as for the director’s inventive two-week shooting schedule that relied on improvised dialogue, natural lighting and minimal camera equipment.

While Soderbergh’s approach to making the film is interesting to discuss, the conversation about “Let Them All Talk” should focus on how this Oscar-winner uses his camera to naturally explore the layers of friendship to discover how resentment can grow when ignored for decades. With his three lead actresses in top form, Soderbergh does more than pursue an unconventional process for making the film, he creates a meaningful look at how time, egos and disappointment can deprive people of the relationships that once meant a great deal.

Streep arrives on screen as the complex author of Pulitzer-winning work who finds herself struggling to complete her latest novel. When awarded a top literary prize in England - but unable to fly from the US to accept the award - she maneuvers passage on the Queen Mary II for herself, a nephew and two college chums she hasn’t seen in some 30 years. What should be a joyous reunion becomes, instead, a thought-provoking exploration of how priorities shift over time, often influenced by the agendas that people perceive that others try to pursue.

While examining such issues can generate serious conversation, and “Let Them All Talk” does share substantive observations, Soderbergh is too creative a filmmaker to simply let his actresses talk about how they feel. Instead he places them in a glittering setting that highlights the artificiality of their initial interactions. While people may look at a trans-Atlanta voyage by ship as a chance to escape, this filmmaker refuses to let his characters hide behind the dazzle. Instead he uses the repetition of the shipboard experience to highlight the conversations people must initiate to preserve the relationships they consider essential.

Of course, any chance to watch Streep play a haughty, yet human, lady is reason enough to watch a movie. But the performance of the film comes from Candice Bergen as an injured soul desperate for answers to questions that have haunted her for decades. Always an actress with precise timing, Bergen uses her natural gift for humor to make this character engaging, while reserving the darker shadows for more introspective moments. She makes us believe in how people can hold onto hurt even when they can’t remember how it began.

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Summary: Let Them All Talk

Content: High. Long-time friends search for ways to reconnect after many years.

Entertainment: High. While the film has a lot to say, the engaging performances from Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen and Dianne Wiest entertain and enlighten.

Message: High. What these ladies learn about each other, and themselves, gives us a lot to think about.

Relevance: High. Any opportunity to look at the challenges of friendships can be meaningful especially when delivered by such strong performers.

Opportunity for Dialogue: High. After you share this film with your older children, talk about the choices people make to stay connected over years.

In a year of unconventional films that we primarily watch at home, “Let Them All Talk” reminds us that where we see a movie is less the issue than what a movie has to say. With all its talk, this film gives us a lot to think about. And talk about.

“Let Them All Talk” runs 1 hour and 53 minutes, is Rated R for language, and is available to stream on HBO Max.