Thirteen Conversations About One Thing

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Thirteen Conversations About One Thing
Promotional poster
Directed byJill Sprecher
Written byKaren Sprecher
Jill Sprecher
Produced byBeni Tadd Atoori
Gina Resnick
StarringMatthew McConaughey
Alan Arkin
John Turturro
Clea DuVall
Amy Irving
CinematographyDick Pope
Edited byStephen Mirrione
Music byAlex Wurman
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics
Release dates
  • September 2, 2001 (2001-09-02) (Venice Film Festival)
  • May 24, 2002 (2002-05-24) (United States)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,706,652

Thirteen Conversations About One Thing is a 2001 American drama film directed by Jill Sprecher. The screenplay by Sprecher and her sister Karen focuses on five seemingly disparate individuals in search of happiness whose paths intersect in ways that unexpectedly affect their lives.


The film is divided into 13 vignettes, each prefaced by an aphorism. Set in New York City, the story revolves around ambitious district attorney Troy, who is stricken with guilt following a hit and run accident in which he injures Beatrice, an idealistic cleaning woman who, forced to reassess her life during her recuperation, finds herself thinking more like her cynical co-worker Dorrie. Mid-level insurance claims manager Gene, unable to cope with his son's downward spiral into drug addiction, is rankled by an unrelentingly cheerful staff member and suffers pangs of regret after firing him without just cause. College physics professor Walker, trying to cope with a midlife crisis, becomes romantically involved with a colleague, an infidelity his wife Patricia is forced to face when his wallet, stolen in a mugging, is mailed to their home and she discovers incriminating evidence inside it.



The Sprecher sisters scripted Thirteen Conversations About One Thing over the course of eight weeks. The script was completed before Jill's directorial debut Clockwatchers was released in 1997, but due to a lack of funding the film took over three years to make.[1] The plot was inspired in part by events in Jill Sprecher's life, including two muggings and a subway assault.[2] The character of Beatrice is based on Sprecher's experiences when she moved to Manhattan following college graduation:[2] "Clea Duvall's character is very autobiographical ... I was that person who only saw good things around me and then, of course, after getting mugged, I sort of changed my opinion of human beings."[3]

The film premiered at the 2001 Venice Film Festival and was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival, the MIFED Film Market in Italy, the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, the Hong Kong International Film Festival, the San Francisco International Film Festival and the Wisconsin Film Festival before going into limited release in the United States. There, it opened on nine screens, earning $89,499 and ranking #34 on its opening weekend. It eventually grossed $3,288,164 in the US and $418,488 in foreign markets for a total worldwide box office of $3,706,652.[4][5]


Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 83% of 114 critics gave the film a positive review, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's critics consensus states: "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing is an intelligent and poignant look at lives intersecting."[6] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 74 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "generally favorable" reviews.[7]

Thirteen Conversations About One Thing was generally well received by critics,[8] who praised the quality of the cast and the treatment of the film's themes. Roger Ebert described the movie as "brilliant ... It is philosophy, illustrated through everyday events."[9] A. O. Scott of the New York Times called the film "both straightforward and enigmatic" and said that "the quiet naturalism of the acting balances the artifice of the script and the almost finicky precision of Ms. Sprecher's frames". For Scott, the film is "thrillingly smart, but not, like so many other pictures in this vein, merely an elaborate excuse for its own cleverness. As you puzzle over the intricacies of its shape, which reveal themselves only in retrospect, you may also find yourself surprised by the depth of its insights."[10] Houston Chronicle reviewer Eric Harrison called the film an "intricately devised and thoughtful comedy",[11] while San Francisco Chronicle reviewer Mick LaSalle said it "makes a case for cinema as a vehicle for conveying moods and ideas and, hardest of all, the internal movements of a soul."[12]

Negative reviewers wrote that the film had problems of tone and a lack of depth to its philosophical underpinnings. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian awarded the film two out of five stars and commented that the film "suffers from curate's-egg unevenness, though its good points certainly stick in the mind."[13] According to Entertainment Weekly critic Ty Burr, the film has "luminous performances, but a genteel tone of despair drags the whole thing down".[14] The Village Voice's Jessica Winter said "the film succeeds only when it peers up from the intro-philosophy book for the occasional glimpse of everyday beauty".[15]



  1. ^ Chaw, Walter. "One conversation with Jill Sprecher". Film Freak Central. Archived from the original on 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2006-10-03.
  2. ^ a b Levy, Piet (July 5, 2002). "Happy Trails to You". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2006-10-03.
  3. ^ Grady, Pam. "And One More Thing". Archived from the original on 12 February 2008. Retrieved 25 October 2010.
  4. ^ "13 Conversations About One Thing (2002)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 19, 2023.
  7. ^ "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved January 19, 2023.
  8. ^ Thirteen Conversations About One Thing at Rotten Tomatoes
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 14, 2002). "13 Conversations About One Thing". Retrieved 2021-04-13.
  10. ^ New York Times review
  11. ^ Harrison, Eric (November 12, 2004). "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 25 October 2010.
  12. ^ LaSalle, Mick (November 22, 2002). "The pursuit of happiness". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2006-10-03.
  13. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (June 17, 2005). "13 Conversations About One Thing". The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-10-03.
  14. ^ Burr, Ty (June 7, 2002). "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2006-10-03.
  15. ^ Winter, Jessica (May 22–28, 2002). "Justify Your Existence". Village Voice. Retrieved 2006-10-03.
  16. ^ "Boston crix key up 'Pianist'". Variety. December 15, 2002. Retrieved 15 October 2022.
  17. ^ "2002 FFCC Award Winners". Retrieved 15 October 2022.

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