If your child committed an unspeakable crime, how far would you go to protect them from that one mistake ruining the rest of their lives and possibly yours? That’s the question director Oren Moverman asks in the dark, psychological thriller The Dinner.

Spanning over the course of one night, The Dinner is the parable of two couples who are forced to deal with a heinous crime committed by their children just a few nights earlier that involved a homeless woman and an ATM. The country is shocked when a video is posted on YouTube showing their children’s heinous crime. The parents then have to decide whether to come clean and let the boys face the consequences of their actions or help their sons’ cover up what they did.

At first, the audience is led to believe that the neurotic ex-history teacher, Paul Lohman, played by an intense Steve Coogan, is the main character of the story. However, the audience is quickly introduced to his wife (Laura Linney) who seems to be the most congenial person in the world as they are getting ready to go to The Dinner that could change their lives forever.

Paul has recently had a nervous breakdown and exhibits some typically behavior of someone with borderline personality disorder. He is also the narrator of the story, which causes the audience to question what is real, since it’s clear that he has a history of mental illness. Richard Gere plays Paul’s brother, Congressman Stan Lohman, who is running for governor. He appears to be self-absorbed at first, but as the story progresses, we realize the complexities of his character. Rebecca Hall plays Stan’s loyal wife.

As the characters arrive to an elite dinning spot in an unknown city, the audience can gather that they all have something on their minds and there is resentment between the two brothers. But the dinner is one that they must have. “It’s all going on the table tonight,” says Stan.

The film is divided into chapters named after the courses– aperitif, appetizer, main course, and a cheese course. Each course contains another big reveal complimented with exquisite dialogue. The characters are like onions all being peeled back as the story goes on. And no one is who they seem at the beginning of the film. Everyone has a secret. The real dilemma lies in should they come forward in press conference and confess, which could destroy the boys’ lives, and theirs? Or could they really go back to living their lives and pretend it never happened?

Moverman mostly does a good job adapting Herman Koch’s novel into this dark film. Even though the first half of the film is filled with too many flashbacks and exposition, The Dinner really picks up right about the time main course comes out, where everyone is saying what they really feel. Veteran cinematographer Bobby Bukowski also nails the candle-lit atmosphere inside the restaurant with warm colors and aesthetic elegance.

From the rich dialogue to the intense acting by all parties, this is one Dinner you won’t want to miss, even though maybe it should have been just two courses instead of four.

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