Give or Take is about a high-strung adult named Martin (Jamie Effros) who returns to his late and estranged father’s Cape Cod home to settle accounts. Martin’s mother died years before, after which his dad started a long-term relationship with Ted (Norbert Leo Butz). Martin’s issues rest with the classic father-son emotional unavailability, but he takes that out on Ted, who had a much different experience with Martin’s father and who is desperate to find constructive means by which he can remain in the family home that Martin would rather sell for a nice chunk of change.
Effros wrote the film alongside director Paul Riccio. The two were smart to make Martin and Ted both sympathetic men, desperate to remember someone who left differently shaped holes in their lives. There’s no nastiness to Ted, and Martin’s anger and selfishness are overcome through learning rather than melodramatic incident.
The hallmarks of “returning home: dramas are all here but thankfully taken in thoughtful directions. For instance, we have a former flame, Emma (Joanne Tucker) and a “stressful girlfriend back home” named Lauren (Annapurna Sriram). Both are fully formed characters in their own right, who have lives outside Martin’s angst. His behavior toward them is met with sympathy but not reward. Neither are villainous or dream girls.
Patty King (Cheri Oteri) is the closest character to an antagonist. She’s a local Realtor who hounds Martin for the sale of the family home. Although Patty’s flamboyant methods rankle an audience rooting for Martin to come around to Ted’s offers, she never quite feels like a villain. Martin is simply given no easy ways out and has to grow as a result.
Give or Take is a refreshingly naturalistic drama with kind characters, clever writing and a sympathetic story. In this day and age, that counts for a lot.