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The Descendants

The Descendants

Released 27 January 2012
Director Alexander Payne

George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Beau Bridges, Nick Krause, Robert Forster, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, Mary Birdsong, Rob Huebel, Patricia Hastie

Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash

Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Origin United States
Running Time 111 minutes
Genre Drama, comedy
Rating 15A

Family matters.

No wonder The Descendants is creating such a frenzy for the upcoming Academy Awards – this film has Oscar material written all over it. Of course, sometimes that can be a bit of an insult to a movie but not on this occasion as director Alexander Payne returns to the big screen for the first time in seven years with a beautiful, moving story.

Set in Hawaii, lead character Matt King (George Clooney) is desperate to stress that living on the Pacific Ocean island is not actually as easygoing as people like to make out. Indeed, Matt would know. For despite being the heir to a multi-million dollar area of land, the father of two is going through a crisis after a boating accident that has left his wife on life-support.

To compound matters even further, Matt's eldest daughter Alex informs him that her mother was in fact having an affair with another man and the pair struggle to deal with their emotional grief and anger ahead of her imminent death while simultaneously trying to protect ten year-old Scottie from the harsh reality of both. In the midst of this is a deal being made with corporate America to sell the centuries old family land.

What ensues is a genuine lesson in the hardship of life – the decisions that have to be made in difficult times, the importance of family and finding out who you really are in the process. The great aspect about The Descendants is that, unlike many other Hollywood dramas of similar ilk, it is believable.

The characters are superbly acted with particular praise reserved for the two daughters played by Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller, although Clooney is excellent in the lead role also. Marketed as a drama comedy, I failed to be blown away by the comedic aspects of the film and, to be honest, thankfully so because it would have ruined it if there had been too many inappropriate moments of laughter. Anyone who may have suffered from grief or difficult times in the past will be able to relate to many aspects of a story that is both heart-wrenching and warming throughout.

- David Caulfield