After the death of his mother, Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) faces returning to his hometown for the funeral. The moment is a contentious one for him: his career hasn't taken off since his performance as a mentally-challenged teen in a football film, he's left all of his anti-depression meds in California and then there's the prospect of reconnecting with friends he hasn't seen in years.
After leaving home, the presence of a void looms in Andrew's life. His father (Ian Holm choosing an American accent that isn't New Jersey-ish) has never forgiven him for his part in his mother's death and Andrew isn't sure he can forgive his father for holding that grudge. Their relationship is strained enough, yet pushed further when considering that his father is also his psychiatrist. If he is ever going to move on with his life, he will need to make some drastic changes.
In the process he has a chance meeting with Sam (Natalie Portman), a girl whose extroverted nature helps Andrew figure out who he really is. Her way of life offers such an unique prospective on life that Andrew is simultaneously intoxicated and alienated by Sam.
Zach Braff is wonderful as a wayward son just off his depression medication, Natalie Portman provides a good counter as Sam, and Peter Sarsgaard excels as Mark whose sleaze requires no embellishment.
Braff (serving as writer, director, and lead) made a fantastic directorial debut. The first acts of Garden State were hilarious. In a genre that sometimes focuses too much on the more dour aspects of life, some scenes crackle with delight. As it went on, the pace of Garden State adjusts itself many times during the film's run-time. With its characters changing, so must the flow of the film.
A promising beginning for a new talent, we shall see where Braff goes from here.