No film really gets the experience of being “Jewish” quite like a serious man. Not necessarily dealing with anti-Semitism or the holocaust or anything like that. But just being Jewish, going to Hebrew school, interacting with other members of the Jewish community and all the strange idiosyncrasies and nuances of being an American Jew. You still may like A Serious Man if you aren’t Jewish, but you really won’t “get” it unless you are.
This perfect grasp of what it actually is to be Jewish opens the floodgates for the film’s dark humor and tragic elements. We laugh at Larry Gopnik’s struggle because it seems so real, the feeling that the sky is falling and that no remorse can be found in any area. The Jewish people have been a tortured one throughout history, and Larry Gopnik just seems to be the next one in line to receive his plate of bad luck.
It’s also accurate to see how the film portrays non-Jewish characters, like Larry’s next door neighbors. They are still human and they can still have a conversation with Larry, but they are undeniably different, almost exotic creatures that mystify and arousesthe Jewish community.
The film ends a bit abruptly, with a tornado quickly leering towards a Hebrew school. We leave still questioning if Larry is a good man or not, and if he deserves all of the unfortunate circumstances that have fallen into his lap. We’ll never know these answers, and we don’t really care to know. We just need to embrace the mystery.