Composer Danny Mulhern Talks “What They Had”

At some point in our lives we all experience personal loss. And although loss is inarguably traumatic, that devastation is often escalated when it occurs gradually before our eyes. Such is the case in “What They Had,” an intergenerational drama that sheds light on the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s on families as well as the individual.

While,“What They Had” certainly deals with heavy subject matter, it judiciously undercuts dramatic tension with humor – effectively capturing the nuances of life. A feat similarly achieved by the films score, written by English composer Danny Mulhern.

“I was sent the film and it moved me to tears,” Mulhern said in a telephone interview. “The mood of the score is really an intimate one because the film is really about a family and the music had to really fit that intimate dynamic.”

Mulhern is a multi-instrumentalist with 20 years experience composing scores for television. A musician with minimalistic and neoclassical leanings, he is drawn to the substantial and has collaborated with the London Contemporary Orchestra, releasing personal projects like his album”Reflections on a Dead Sea,” inspired by the tragic Libyan refugee crisis.

Familiar with his work, writer and director, Elizabeth Chomko, reached out to Mulhern for a temporary score before ultimately assigning him the role of composer.

“She really liked what I did, so she approached me to do the score. It’s really nice to be asked to do it as an artist — for the music you do yourself — rather than because you’re a television or film composer,” Mulhern said. “She specifically liked my personal music which was a big confidence builder and validation for the work I’ve been doing for the past couple of years. It turned out to be a really beautiful film and I’m really proud of my involvement.”

“What They Had,” premiered at Sundance on Jan. 21. It will premiere nationwide later this year (TBD). 

Devon Alexander Brown
Devon Alexander Brown
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