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Annette Bening
Julianne Moore
Mark Ruffalo.
Lisa Cholodenko.
Stuart Blumberg
Lisa Cholodenko.
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109 minutes

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The Kids Are All Right
And the next blockbaster is...

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Teens Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson) live with their two mothers, Nic (Bening) and Jules (Moore), who both used the same sperm donor. Laser persuades Joni to contact the donor, Paul (Ruffalo), who bonds with Joni and Jules, much to Nic’s disapproval.

The Kids Are All Right
Julianne Moore and Annette Bening as lesbian life partners: it’s a compelling proposition from the off. They make an instantly convincing couple in this comedy-drama that would work almost as well without the gender twist.

The challenges of child-rearing have put a subtle strain on the relationship between Nic (Bening) and Jules (Moore) — and the gap only widens when sperm donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo) comes into the picture. Hard-working Nic is wary of the intruder, but free-spirited Jules shares a cautious rapport with him. Agreeing to landscape his garden, Jules grows closer to Paul while Nic grits her teeth and knocks back the red wine after work.

It’s a keenly observed portrait of a marriage put to the test, and of human behaviour in the face of change or threat. Despite their differences, both Nic and Jules are utterly relatable: their decisions make sense even when we know they’re bad ones.

It’s clear that director and co-writer Lisa Cholodenko (High Art) knows her subjects well: she even fell pregnant via a sperm donor while working on the screenplay. You sense co-writer Stuart Blumberg had strong input in the role of charming bachelor Paul, another thoroughly identifiable character perfectly pitched by Ruffalo.

Josh Hutcherson is decent as the bolshy son, while Mia Wasikowska is self-assured as clever, considered Joni. These teenagers are happy with their parents but curious about their father, and their explorations lead to poignant and funny moments.

For yes, this is funny. For every smart little observation there’s a big laugh, and the two are often combined. Conversations show a keen eye for awkwardness, from Paul’s rant against teams to sporty Laser, to his explanation of why he donated sperm (“It just seemed like a lot more fun than giving blood”). Cholodenko keeps the mood breezy, always seeing the humour in uncomfortable situations without losing a sense of heart.

There’s a danger of the children being slightly underwritten; in particular, a subplot about Laser and his obnoxious mate never comes to fruition. This is the adult’s show — but that’s kind of the point. The kids are alright — it’s the grown-ups we should be worried about.

A witty, warm exploration of family life that’s conventional and unconventional in equal measure.

Reviewed by Anna Smith

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Kids Are All Right
Empire Star Rating

Very Good

Enjoyable with a few laughs along the way. All the actors were great. Mark Ruffalo is certainly choosing some good roles. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MIKETHEBIKE2006 at 22:58, 19 January 2013 | Report This Post

The Kids Are All Right Review

Worthwhile as both a well-acted ensemble piece and as a smart, warm statement on family values, The Kids Are All Right is remarkable. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 22:14, 17 February 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Not Happy Families.....

Cliched tripe which doesnt really know what it´s saying. Bad hetrosexual man! ... More

Posted by thetruth at 10:52, 26 September 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Not Happy Families.....

Completely agree with Wilder. Saw this recently and thought yes the acting was great and as mentioned in the review it has a light breezy feel, but at the end it was like the writer just completely forget about Mark Ruffalo's character! He was a really likeable guy with no malicious intent towards anyone, and yet somehow we were all supposed to forgive Jules for her actions but not him. The tone clearly seemed to imply the film had a happy ending, yet it was anything but for him.... More

Posted by brucejackiejet at 10:38, 26 September 2011 | Report This Post

Average. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by reminn at 23:23, 03 January 2011 | Report This Post

Good but just doesn't quite make it to great!

The acting is superb, the subject matter is interesting, as are the characters and in general its nicely done. I think it it just doesn't have the vital spark to make it a great movie and I think it will have a limited audience because of the 'different' subject matter but if you are lucky enough to see it you'll be entertained for a couple of hours. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tothemax100 at 00:32, 03 December 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Not Happy Families.....

Have to agree with that although felt sorry for Ruffalo's character at the end where it was just like OH BAD HETROSEXUAL MAN! & just banished from the film I could understand if he was a dick but his character was a pretty decent type of a bloke, bit of a HIPPY but decent enough. ... More

Posted by Wild about Wilder at 10:26, 03 November 2010 | Report This Post

Not Happy Families.....

Just come back from the Cinema after watching " The Kids are Allright " and to be honest, its a difficult one to call. The acting is superb, the subject matter is a bit weird / strange though, and its a bit of a long winded affair all round. Its not a BAD Film, but one I think will have a limited audience that do actually enjoy it......... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by n13roy at 17:45, 02 November 2010 | Report This Post

Not Happy Families.....

Just come back from the Cinema after watching " The Kids are Allright " and to be honest, its a difficult one to call. The acting is superb, the subject matter is a bit weird / strange though, and its a bit of a long winded affair all round. Its not a BAD Film, but one I think will have a limited audience that do actually enjoy it......... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by n13roy at 17:45, 02 November 2010 | Report This Post

Good, but nothing that impressive...

Just been out to see The Kids Are Alright. It was pretty good, though not the must-see I'd rather been expecting. Central performances excellent - obviously Annette Bening & Julianne Moore, but also Mark Ruffalo. Also a very good newcomer performance (playing the daughter) from Mia Wasikowska - watch out for more from her. It felt slightly overlong at 106 mins, perhaps because it ran out of things to say? Or maybe it was more that it didn't really know what it was trying to say, beyond so... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Tim_Walker at 00:58, 01 November 2010 | Report This Post

Fantastic film

I saw that a few weeks ago in France and it was absolutely amazing, It did something that even many movies with straight couples couldn't achieve: shows the struggle of a marriage, and the difficulties of making it work, which could happen to any couples of any orientation. By tackling this very topic, plus the situation with the kids wondering about their biological father and the crisis it creates, it's a modern tale of a modern family facing a new challenge, and it's so damn good. And ne... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MarieMJS at 11:47, 26 October 2010 | Report This Post

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