Junebug

Starring Embeth Davidtz, David Kuhn and Allesandro Nivola. Directed by Phil Morrison.
Running Time: 106 mins.
Rated: Rated MA 15+
What are we to make of a title like Junebug? Even knowing that it is the chosen name for an unborn child is not a great help either. Let's just say it's a tantalising title for what turns out to be a very good film.

Embeth Davidtz is not a household name but she has appeared in many good films including Schindler's List, Bridget Jones' Diary and Matilda. Here she plays a sophisticated and elegant gallery curator who falls in love with a charming man from the South (Allesandro Nivola) and accompanies him home while seeking out an eccentric backwoods artist to make a contract. That theme continues during the film with some astute and acerbic comments on the art world and financial wars.

However, the film focuses on the family portrait. They are eccentric and dysfunctional though not exceptionally so. Father is a quiet man, steady, a worker with his hands and an artistic craftsman. He is patience personified. Mother, however, has a lot to say, a biggish and dominating woman who idolises her children and does not welcome a sophisticated Yankee for a daughter -in-law. The younger son is a slacker, working in a garage, trying to do some night studies, resentful of his successful older brother and feeling trapped by his marriage to his high school sweetheart who is now pregnant. Scott Wilson is the father, Celia Weston the mother and Ben McKenzie the son.

The bright spot is the pregnant wife. She survives in the family by being breezily cheerful. And while she thinks she won't like the visitor, it takes only a few seconds for her to open up (and not shut up) with incessant questions, chatter and affirmation. Amy Adams won a Best Supporting actress nomination and this performance should be an effective calling card for her future career.

The screenplay is continually unpredictable which gives the film added charm and enjoyment. The religious dimension of devout North Carolina folk is respected, especially when the son is invited to sing a hymn at a party to the amazement and even awe of his wife. Family bonds are explored, especially when the wife goes into labour for the birth of Junebug. This sequence and its aftermath are very moving.

Nothing epic about this modest film, but most audiences will not be sorry that they saw it.

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and an associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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