Monday, 30 May 2011

The Kids are Alright

I  missed this in the cinema and am grateful for the rainy holiday weekend that keeps me indoors! What a delightful film. This film is strong on narrative and strong on performance. It is both believable and reasonable - given that the story is set in southern California! This film explores questions relating to family and how nature and nurture relate to one another, about relationships and fidelity. The story explores emotions and the morality surrounding a gay couple who both mothered a child from the same anonymous sperm donor. The fun starts when one of the children comes of age and makes contact with their father.

There are two key moments in this film. One where Nic (one of the Moms [Annette Bening]) challenges sperm doning Paul (Mark Ruffalo) by reminding him that this is her family and not his and suggesting that if he wants his own, he should grow it and go with all the pain and struggle that this entails. The irony is of course that the family was enabled to grow through his donation which begs the question to what extent is it his family too?

The second moment comes on the painful journey from infidelity to forgiveness when Jules (Julianne Moore) - the other Mom - delivers a blockbuster speech on the nature and challenges of the long haul of making a marriage work.

In every respect the two Moms operate like a 'conventional' heterosexual couple with Nic taking a more masculine role and Jules describing herself as the 'wife'. The two kids have obviously come to terms with the unconventional nature of their family unit - perhaps in southern California it is not so unconventional?

Donor Dad Paul who dropped out from College and is very laid back and languid is the antithesis of Nic's conception of drivenness and high-achieving. He runs an eco friendly restaurant using locally grown organic produce and is finally making good in life. He strikes up an relationship with the  empathetic sensitive and unsettled Jules which nearly derails the whole thing.

This film is a gift for exploring questions realting to same-sex relationships, families, and whether or not the concept of nuclear family is open to redefinition in post-modern southern California - or next door to you. The fact that it does so in such an accesible way with such great humour (yes this a comedy) is a great credit to Lisa Cholodenko who conceived and directed this film.

If you've not seen it - do watch it. If you've already seen it - watch it again! I'll give it 8/10.

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