I have mixed feelings about The Father of My Children and this film shares both its removed, albeit not bloodless, approach to a personal subject and its bifurcated structure. Yet, for whatever reason, this one went over a little better. Maybe it's because the element that made The Father of My Children into a kind of grief procedural (the systematic tying up of loose financial and emotional ends) is absent in this film, in which loose ends are simply put to one side; or maybe it's because the stakes are much lower and as a result the approach seems a little less counter-intuitive; or maybe it's because of the narrow focus on three people and their feelings, which means that it feels a little less sprawling and a little more focused. Whatever the case the drawback is that even as it feels more comfortable it also feels more conventional, less bold. And there's an architecture metaphor which is more than a little on the nose.
Still Hansen-Love's strengths are very much on show here, the most important of which is the rather unshowy way in which she charts out her characters' little epiphanies and changes of mind without underlining them over much. Instead she often places them between scenes or makes them a little ambiguous. (It’s never made 100% clear that Sullivan leaves the family portrait behind deliberately – even though he almost certainly did.)