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.