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The Kids Are All Right is a rare film that has the elements of an “Oscar” film, in this case being a lesbian couple whose children meet their sperm donor, while never feeling like Oscar-bait. Everything about the film has such a natural, lived-in quality, and feels so genuine that you rarely think about it being a film. It looks like life.

The characters, with all of their eccentricities, flaws and strengths, are each amazing, thanks partly to a script by Stuart Blumberg and director Lisa Cholodenko, and the rest to their fantastic cast. Some of them could have easily fallen into lazy stereotype (spacey hippie, workaholic control-freak) but have far too much depth for that. The focus on detail comes through in pet phrases (‘grubby,’ or ‘right on’ come to mind), idiosyncratic actions (awkward hugs, for one) and clear opinions and defined goals, even where the characters themselves fail to realize that they possess them. You know, the way people do.

The plot progresses naturally from son Laser needing newly 18 year old Joni to search out their donor material supplier, Paul. While awkward, the meeting is pivotal and Paul rather quickly inserts himself into the lives of his genetic offspring and their mothers, Nic and Jules, longtime partners. Each character takes cues from the other and their journeys are uniquely intertwined in ways that flow from funny to painful more than once. The humor in the script really comes through in the characters’ interactions, from Nic and Jules’ love life to Paul’s detached awkwardness in dealing with what he comes to regard as his children, in spite of his total absence in their childhoods.

Much of this comes across as painful, though, as the film is more drama than comedy, I would say. The script drops hints at what’s to come at times that are clear without being obvious and sets you up for the punch it’s about to deliver. You may feel for the characters, but you never feel sorry for them, which makes a huge difference in how likeable they truly are. 5 stars, highly recommended

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