A Serious Man

  • Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Producers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
  • Writers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
  • Genres: Comedy
  • Actors: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Sari Wagner Lennick, Fred Melamed, Aaron Wolff

Minnesota, 1967. Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a Jewish physics professor who is being considered for tenure at the university. His son Danny (Aaron Wolff) lives in constant fear of a physically intimidating Hebrew school classmate named Mike Fagle (Jon Kaminski Jr.), to whom Danny owes twenty dollars for marijuana. His teacher catches him listening to a portable radio in class and confiscates it.

Larry’s brother Arthur (Richard Kind) is sleeping on the couch and obsessively writing in a notebook. He purports it to be a scientific research work called The Mentaculus determining the fundamental mathematical relationships that tie all natural laws together.

A Korean-born student, Clive (David Kang), is about to flunk Larry’s class and lose his scholarship. He protests that Larry’s exams are unfair; that he understands the illustrative stories about Schrödinger’s Cat but does not understand the math. After the student leaves the office, Larry spots a thick envelope left by Clive and containing a great sum of money.

Larry’s wife Judith (Sari Lennick) is seeking a divorce and needs a get (a Jewish divorce), so she can marry widower Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed). At the insistence of Judith and Sy, Larry and Arthur eventually move into a nearby motel, the “Jolly Roger”. Judith has withdrawn all of the couple’s money from their joint accounts, leaving Larry penniless.

Larry’s department head compliments Larry on Danny’s bar mitzvah and hints that he will earn tenure. Upon receiving the bill for Arthur’s criminal lawyer he decides to pass Clive after all, and take the bribe left in his desk. His doctor calls him and asks to see him to talk about the results of a chest X-ray. At the same time a massive tornado is approaching Danny’s school.