Junebug

This insightful and pleasing tale of family tension in suburban North Carolina opens with the alienating sound of yodelling echoing over a series of calm images of the neighbourhood; in retrospect, these sonic incursions are portents of impending disruption when absent son George (Alessandro Nivola) turns up after a long absence to pay a visit to his family home with new wife Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) in tow.

Madeleine’s a metropolitan, British-born art-dealer with a special interest in a naive and somewhat disturbed painter in the area; George’s family are no-nonsense, small-town Christians who have yet to meet their new daughter-in-law. The lines, it seems, are drawn for an almighty culture clash.

But first-timer Phil Morrison and screenwriter Angus MacLachlan are too clever merely to let sparks fly and be done with it. Sure, George’s mother Peg (Celia Weston) is suspicious, his father Eugene (Scott Wilson) is silent and his brother Johnny (Benjamin McKenzie) is aggressive, but MacLachlan’s script crafts each of its characters with care to avoid stereotypes and easy resolutions. ‘Junebug’ is a careful, nuanced study of how families endure and adapt over time.

The film’s heart is George’s pregnant sister-in-law Ashley (Amy Adams, who gives a great, endearing performance). She’s a big-hearted, happy and curious young woman who greets the new addition to her family with loving, open arms; she has her own tragedy too, which allows ‘Junebug’ to scratch beneath the surface of familial relations and reveal something more enduring. A welcome debut.

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday April 14 2006
Duration: 107 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Phil Morrison
Cast: Embeth Davidtz
Alessandro Nivola
Frank Hoyt Taylor

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

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Leona Luk

Amy Adams was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role here, and it's not surprising. In addition to a great performance, the character is very special to the world this film inhabits. She is the first to really break down barriers not only between the worldly Madeline and the small town Christians, but between the audience and the film characters. Good stuff.