On another level, his son Danny (Aaron Wolff) is heading towards his bar mitzvah (let me tell you: that scene is handled very, very strangely) and facing his own trials, like paying someone back. All of this is interwoven in the best way possible, by the Coens and their friends, including cinematographer Roger Deakins, costume designer Mary Zophres, and art director and set decorators Deb Jansen and Nancy Haigh, respectively. As always, the brothers create a very good script with great characters, from the leads, to Adam Arkin's knowing lawyer, to the rabbis that Larry visits, and others. They also decide to branch out, adding a moralistic prologue in a much earlier timeframe than most of the film. For me and my friend, in a lot of ways it was really not like any of the other Coen films.
But then again, there's always that unsettling humor that they patented over the years that spikes the punch. They know how to really inflict you with something. This is an element that sometimes puts me off about their films, even though I think they are achievements. In "A Serious Man," this is slighter and has a smaller but still effective burn. And the performances. They're quite good. Stuhlbarg, Kind, and Melamed are all convincing in their respective roles, and the supporting cast, like Arkin and even Michael Lerner (in a very, very brief appearance), adds to the density of the film. So while I don't think "A Serious Man" is perfect, I do think that it is one of the best films of the year, one you should get to if you can for its blend of old and new for the Coens. Also since it's a really good film in a weaker year. Such delights as these are hard to come by. A-