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Thirteen Conversations About One Thing is a 2001 Americanmarker 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 impact their lives.


The film is divided into 13 vignettes, each prefaced by an aphorism. Set in New York Citymarker, 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 attitudes during her recuperation, finds herself thinking more like her cynical co-worker Dorrie. Midlevel 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 over the course of eight weeks. Although it was completed before Clockwatchers, which was released in 1997, a lack of funding prevented it from reaching the screen until several years later. The plot was inspired in part by events in Jill Sprecher's life, including two muggings and a subway assault. The character of Beatrice is based on Sprecher's personal experience cleaning apartments after moving to Manhattanmarker following college graduation.

The film premiered at the 2001 Venice Film Festival and was shown at the Toronto Film Festivalmarker, the MIFED Film Market in Italymarker, the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, the Hong Kong International Film Festival, and the Wisconsin Film Festival before going into limited release in the US. 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.


A.O. Scott of the New York Times called the film "both straightforward and enigmatic" and said watching it "is a bit like listening to a Schubert piano concerto: you perceive, at the far boundary of consciousness, echoes and foreshadowings, and you encounter, always by surprise and always in retrospect, at exactly the right moment passages of intense and ravishing emotion." He added, "The quiet naturalism of the acting balances the artifice of the script and the almost finicky precision of Ms. Sprecher's frames, in which no detail is wasted or left to chance. Thirteen Conversations 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."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said the film is "brilliant ... philosophy, illustrated through everyday events. Most movies operate as if their events are necessary - that B must follow A. 13 Conversations betrays B, A and all the other letters as random possibilities ... [T]here aren't many filmmakers whose next film I anticipate more eagerly."

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian awarded the film two out of five stars and commented, "This quirky ensemble movie inevitably suffers from curate's-egg unevenness, though its good points certainly stick in the mind ... Director Jill Sprecher has a cutesy habit of prefiguring scenes with chapter headings that superciliously quote from a previous piece of dialogue, thus attempting to garner a bit of unearned resonance ... The real star is the terrifically forceful Alan Arkin ... If only the film had been all about him."




  1. Jill Sprecher interview at
  2. Austin Chronicle, July 5, 2002
  5. New York Times review
  6. Chicago Sun-Times review
  7. The Guardian review

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