Emotional Arithmetic (2007) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Semi-retired university professor David Winters and his wife and former student Melanie Winters née Lansing live on a hobby farm in the Eastern Townships of Quebec with their adult son Benjamin Winters and Benjamin's son, Timothy Winters. Their life is not totally harmonious due to David's chronic infidelity and Melanie's emotional instability, a result in large part of her growing up which she refuses to speak of to Benjamin, who knows nothing of his mother's childhood directly from her. Melanie has been institutionalized many times in her life and is on medication to deal with her mental issues. Melanie's passion in life is to follow many cases of political oppression in the world, this passion again due to her past life. In September 1985, Melanie, through this work, reconnects with Jakob Bronski who she knew during World War II when she was only a teenager when they were both interred at Drancy, a transit station outside of Paris where the government, in cooperation with the Nazis, housed Jews before they were sent to a concentration camp. An adult when they were interred, Jakob, a poet, has just been released from a Russian psychiatric hospital where he has lived for most of his life for killing a guard. Against David's wishes, Melanie asks Jakob to come and stay with them for as long as he wants. Along with Jakob comes Christopher Lewis, who was also interred at Drancy when he was a teenager, his internment despite not being Jewish himself. The three formed a special bond during their stay at Drancy. Jakob and Christopher's visit opens up a flood of emotions for Melanie about her past with the two people she considers the closest to blood relations and how it led to where she is today. But it also brings into light the Winters family dynamic as especially Benjamin learns more about his mother's life.

  • Emotional Arithmetic tells the story of three people who formed a life-long bond while housed at a detention camp during World War II that are reunited some 35 years later after being separated from one another. Jakob Bronski, a young Jewish man, took a shine to two youngsters, Melanie and Christopher, while they were interred, by the Nazis, at Drancy, a housing complex on the outskirts of Paris that was used as a detention camp for Jews. Drancy operated as a way station; once there, having your name put on the wrong list meant relocation to a death camp. Their separation inflicts deep emotional wounds that grossly impact their lives in differing ways in the years leading up to their life-altering reunion. Now a beautiful woman in her 50's, Melanie Lansing Winters, wife of David Winters, balances her precarious emotional state with an innate sharp, deprecating wit. Jakob, now a senior citizen, is a heroic dissident and veteran of a Soviet psychiatric hospital. And her childhood friend, Christopher Lewis, a British novelist who has long carried a torch for Melanie, is haunted by the eternal question survivors ask themselves - "Why was I saved?" Melanie invites Jakob to stay with her at her home in Canada. Christopher accompanies Jakob there. With Melanie's marriage to David in shambles due to his compulsive infidelity, the pair's presence in the Winters' home revitalizes Melanie, but arouses unexpected reserves of jealousy in David, who is estranged from his and Melanie's grown son, Benjamin, a father himself to a young son, Timmy. On a balmy summer evening, the past explodes into the present in an unexpected and tender love story and its fatal consequences. The 'emotional arithmetic' of the title refers to the characters' struggle to face the past and move on.


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  • Emotional Arithmetic is a story of redemption, healing, and reconciliation ignited by the re-union of three survivors of Drancy, the WW II internment camp just outside of Paris.

    In 1945, Jakob Bronski, a young dissident held at Drancy, takes two children, Melanie and Christopher, under his charge. 40 years later Melanie (Susan Sarandon) is grown up and has a family of her own: husband David (Christopher Plummer), son Benjamin (Roy Dupuis), and grandson Timmy (Dakota Goyo). Melanie discovers that a now elderly Jakob (Max von Sydow), whom she believed had been taken from Drancy to Auschwitz and killed, is still alive. She immediately invites him to live with her and her family on their farm in Canada. Jakob arrives with Christopher (Gabriel Byrne) as a surprise for Melanie, and she and Christopher must face the truth of the bond between them. The past explodes into the present (the mid-1980s) in an unexpected and tender love story which is life altering for them and for those around them.

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