The Descendants

Art & Culture

It's been seven years since Alexander Payne made Sideways, but it's been worth the wait since his new film is as good if not better – apart from the title which is awful.

George Clooney stars as Matt King, a man who, despite material success, has more than enough to cope with, and isn't coping. He's been struggling with the decision about what to do with 2500 acres of virgin land in Hawaii where he lives. His family has had this property for decades, but has to sell it – but to who, and for how much money. Crowds of cousins are waiting in the wings, but it's his decision. Worse still, his wife has had a bad accident out boating and is in a coma. His 10 year old daughter Scotty is acting out at school, while 17 year old Alexandra has an attitude the size of the Grand Canyon, and delivers some shocking and unwelcome news to her dad, which propels the narrative of the remainder of the film (I won't tell you what it, you should see the film as freshly as you can).

Payne's great skill as scriptwriter and director is to manage to serve up equal portions of comedy and tragedy. I laughed, and I cried, and you can't do much better than that. It's not profound stuff, except that for me, all films about family relationships press emotional buttons. I can't say I think much of the title, but apart from that, I would recommend it highly.


Phil Raby

Front Row Films

•    Content supplied by the excellent Front Row Films website – check the site and join up for many more reviews and general all-round film goodness.

•    To stay ahead of the game, subscribe to The Ransom Note – here