And that’s where the film lost the critics. Rather than look past the misfortune that plagues the movie like a pandemic to get to the (I think) fairly thought-provoking motif, commentators are saying that Fogelman tried too hard to get his point across and oversaturated the film with beat-you-over-the-head emotional turmoil, “manipulating the characters like a bunch of very depressing Sims,” as the LA Times put it.
Part of that comes from the way Fogelman packed so much story into barely enough scenes, but still left us feeling like we didn’t get much. He gave the characters little time to evolve, and the audience has to make snap judgments as to whether they’re supposed to like or despise them. As a result, viewers aren’t sure whether they’re sad or not, they just know they’re supposed to be.