Discussion questions for A Serious Man

If the review of "A Serious Man" below piqued your interest in watching the movie, here are some questions you might consider for your own, personal reflection; or, better yet, for discussion with friends.

  • What were you thinking about as the film ended?
  • Did you like the vignette about the dybbuk at the beginning of the film? How does it relate to the rest of the film?
  • Describe Larry Gopnik. Did you like him? Do you think you were supposed to like him? How is the fact that he is a physics professor significant? Discuss the meaning of his quote at the end of the review.
  • What’s the significance of the film’s title, "A Serious Man"?

  • Larry’s tragedies inspire a question in him: What is “Hashem” (God) trying to tell me? What are the answers the three rabbis—Scott, Nachtner, and Marshak—give him? If Larry came to you with the same question, how would you answer him?
  • The Scriptures teach “… we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). And yet often, especially in the face of tragedy, life can seem pointless and absurd. How do you respond under such circumstances and why? How should you respond?
  • If you have seen M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 film "Signs," contrast it with "A Serious Man." Which film did you prefer? Why?
  • Did you think "A Serious Man" was funny? Do you think the Coen brothers intended their audience to laugh? How would you respond to Grooms’ criticism that the film, though well done, just isn’t funny?
  • Film critic Toddy Burton had this to say about "A Serious Man:" “The Coens seem to be working from a definitive stance that religion and God lead to nothing but confusion and fear. Their God, if they have one, is the cinema. And more often than not, their films speak to lovers of film more than lovers of life. But there's something about that love of film that also embraces the human experience with a striking honesty.” Discuss this quote.
  • The film ends with Larry bending to the pressure of his troubles by doing something he knows to be wrong. What’s the significance of this act? How do the Coens respond to it in the film?