It would be a mistake to label this as a lesbian film. It is so much more universal than that! It is all about long term relationships, raising kids, what it means to be a family, a young person leaving for college, and making different personalities work within the family unit. These are issues that every couple and every family has to deal with. And deal with it this film does in a very human way. Throw in lesbians and sperm donation and you've got yourself quite a film. It is a complete package with a great story, fantastic acting and mature directing. One of the best films of the year so far.
Jules (Julianne Moore – The Hours, A Single Man) and Nic (Annette Bening – Being Julia, Mother and Child) are two middle aged women who are also a long term lesbian couple. They have had two children, one by each woman, which they conceived by using the same sperm donor. Their eldest is 18-year-old daughter, Joni (Mia Wasikowska – Alice in Wonderland, Amelia), who is about to leave for college and 15-year-old son, Laser (Josh Hutcherson – Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Polar Express).
Because she is eighteen, Joni has access to who the sperm donor's contact information and Laser asks her to call their biological father because he wants to meet him. Without their mothers' knowledge Joni and Laser meet Paul (Mark Ruffalo – Shutter Island, Date Night). Paul is a cool guy who own his own restaurant, drives a motorcycle and runs a small organic farm. Oddly enough, it is Joni who clicks with Paul and Laser who is more hesitant.
Once Jules and Nic find out about the meeting they are at first hurt then curiosity takes over and the whole "family" gets together for an attempt at bonding. Nic, a successful surgeon who is a total Type A personality, is less sure about the whole thing. Jules and Paul hit it off and he even hires her fledgling landscape architecture company to do his back yard. One thing leads to another and awkward moments followed by heartache ensue.
The film is totally character driven and that is fine when you have as good a cast as this one. Julianne Moore, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo all become their characters in this very realistic film. Ruffalo is cooler than he has ever been and Moore and Bening are believable as a couple who have been together forever. Bening has the harder job as she plays the hyper critical, control freak and the less likable half of the couple. She still manages to create a character that we can relate to, understand and even care about.
It is amazing to me that I liked this film so much as its plotline seems like something you would see in a night time soap opera. Lesbian couple with two teenage kids who sneak off to meet their sperm donor. I mean, really! But somehow writers Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg (The Girl Next Door,Keeping the Faith) make it all work. Well written the film is filled with awkward moments that although they make you cringe are wonderful to watch. It is so real and real life is messy and not always pretty especially when it comes to family. The saving grace is that it does not become too hokey or unbelievable. Even the comedy in the film is natural feeling and completely hysterical.
Everyone who sees the film will find some parts to relate to in this depiction of a long term relationship that sees its peaks and valleys and a family who are close, but still have issues with each other.