The Kids Are All Right effectively mixes drama and comedy, producing a film that explores family dynamics without pushing any kind of agenda.
Joni and her brother Laser decide to contact their biological father, behind the backs of their two mothers. After Paul enters their life he becomes more ingratiated with their family, revealing the cracks in the relationship between Jules and Nic, as well as the issues with their children…
The premise of the film is fairly simple. A newcomer enters the lives of an established (and a little stuck-in-a-rut) group, disrupting their lives and causing them to reflect on the dynamics of their structure. The Kids Are All Right moves beyond this basic plot by portraying complex and three-dimensional characters with complicated relationships.
Jules and Nic are depicted as a couple who are still affectionate, but their relationship is a little tired, having been together for so long and raised two children together. Although at first it seems like a case of opposites – Jules is free-spirited while Nic is more controlling – as the film progresses, it is clear that there is so much more to them than this. They are much like any married couple, having their quirks and niggles. The fact that they are same-sex partners is only significant to facilitate a requirement for the sperm donor. The Kids Are All Right is not a film concerned with gender or sexual orientation; the focus is firmly on the family unit.
Paul is a laid-back, carefree guy, who seems like the antithesis of Nic in several ways. He appears to genuinely want to spend time with Joni and Laser, yet at the same time seems unsure of what he wants in life. Mark Ruffalo is entirely appropriate for the role; he is wholly believable as the relaxed Paul.
Annette Bening as Nic also shows inspired casting. She is convincing portraying all of Nic’s emotions, and has great chemistry with Julianne Moore as Jules. Mia Wasikowska is great as Joni, she effectively displays the placidity of the character, whose emotions are bubbling just under the surface. Josh Hutcherson is also persuasive as Laser, a teen longing for a father figure.
The Kids Are All Right exhibits a very Californian feel to the entire movie. As well as the settings, which include plenty of outdoor scenes, the music and natural lighting add to this atmosphere. There are some beautiful images in the film, which director Lisa Cholodenko wisely keeps in frame to background a very character-driven film. The shooting style works well; a shot of Nic on the couch while the other characters cook in the kitchen together really exemplifies her isolation from the group at that time.
Pacing is good, and the film keeps a regular supply of laughs in amongst the drama. Overall, The Kids Are All Right is a relatable film, with good performances and story that is both realistic and engaging.
The Kids Are All Right is being screened at the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival in October 2010.