A typical 2.4 American family – with a few small tweaks to the mould. First off, Mom and Dad are actually Mom and Mom. Second, the children are half-siblings, immaculately incepted by a sperm donor, one biologically related to one mother, the other, to the other mother. Confused? Watch the film.
The Kids Are Alright takes its name from the song and rockumentary of the same name by legendary band The Who. Directed and co-screen written by Lisa Cholodenko, it’s a happier, funnier American Beauty, and received rave reviews following its premier at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore deliver fantastic performances as Nic and Jules. Nic wears the trousers in the relationship with a high flying job, while Jules is a laid back hippie type into landscape gardening, quite the opposite to her last screen performance in Tom Ford’s A Single Man. Their relationship is as romantic, real and normal as any other – aside from their penchant for gay male porn. With their bright, beautiful daughter Jonie and brooding son Laser, the family operate in perfect harmony, that is until Daddy Donor (played by Mark Ruffalo) throws a big sperm spanner in the works.
Mark Ruffalo as Paul, is the antithesis of a respectable father figure; he enjoys casual sex and rides a motorbike. Styled by fashion designer Neil Barrett on and off-screen, Ruffalo sports an aged leather jacket by the designer, emblematic of his rebellious hedonistic lifestyle. Paul takes to his unexpected fatherhood with ease and enthusiasm. In fact, without exception, the cast’s acting is incredibly natural, as if you’re really watching a real family sitting down to dinner, watching TV and trying to cope with life-changing issues in their stride. Its reality must be in no small part due to the fact that Cholodenko is herself a lesbian, who has given birth to a son through a sperm donor with her partner. Hilariously dry throughout and avoiding cliché at every corner, the film finds a way of communicating and empathising with everyone, gay, straight, old, young, single or married.
Following its BFI Film Festival screening, The Kids Are Alright is released in UK cinemas today.