I recently got the opportunity to watch 2011 American comedy / drama The Descendents which is directed by Alexander Payne (Sideways, About Schmidt) and is based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. In January 2012, The Descendants won two Golden Globe Awards and earned five nominations at the forthcoming 84th Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for Clooney.
It is a very good film; one of those very human, very ordinary stories that Payne is very good at translating into film. In that sense it makes for a moving film, one that touches the heart and moves the emotions; albeit different people will bring different life experiences to it; people will identify with all or only one of the characters (husband, wife, children, relatives, friends, or the object of an affair, i.e. the “other person”). Some will find it very uncomfortable, difficult and/or painful to watch. Some with undoubtedly find it therapeutic. Some tears will be shed. Others will just go to see George Clooney.
I recommend it, as I do those rare films that are able to touch and move us; that are somehow able to partner us in becoming more fully and deeply human.
- The slow unconscious death of a marriage.
- Infidelity and betrayal.
- The downstream consequences, costs, and impacts – in every direction – of infidelity.
- Hope and life post-the end of a relationship.
- The possibilities of relational restoration when both partners are truly awake and can truly see.
- Relational and family dynamics.
- Crisis & awakening. The personal invitations to face into reality; the invitations to change and growth.
- Grief and loss (“loss” and “endings” can be ‘read’ on a number of levels, not just in the sense of “death” as the ultimate loss and ending)
“…For all of us, there’s a distance between how we are seen and how we see ourselves. ‘T think [The Descendents] is a coming-of-age film, but the guys who’s coming of age is a 50-year-old guy,’ says Clooney… ‘He’s woken up to the fact that all of these betrayals that he feels – from his wife, to his children not really being great kids, to the fact that he’s the only adult in terms of his family – he’s as responsible as anyone else for being there. Then it comes down to forgiving yourself…” Empire Magazine, February 2012, p. 15.