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film review: the descendants

This year’s winner of the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture- Drama, The Descendants is the story of Matt King (George Clooney), a lawyer whose extended family inherited large amounts of land on Hawaii from their ancestors. His wife, Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) has just been in a boating accident that has left her in coma. As King hopes for her recovery and struggles to take care of his youngest daughter, Scottie (Amara Miller), he is also in the process of selling off his family’s last remaining piece of untouched land.

After learning that Elizabeth will never wake up, he retrieves his rebellious daughter Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) from boarding school, who has some surprising news about her mother’s life before the accident. Along with Scottie and Alex’s obnoxious friend Sid (Nick Krause), King must find the right way to say goodbye to his wife while also finding the right way to sell off his family’s history.

One thing that is clear from the outset is that Clooney definitely deserved the accolade of Best Actor for his performance in this film. He is the narrator and the main focus throughout, and his warmth and portrayals of honest emotions make his character very real. His face says as much as his words do, and he is the kind of character that is very easy to relate to.

Almost on par with Clooney’s performance is that of Woodley as Alexandra, whose reaction to the news of her mother’s condition is one of the most powerful moments of the film. The character development of Sid, though a secondary storyline, is also a highlight.

This film is one of many emotions. It is both funny and sad, as well as angry and bittersweet. There are as many humourous moments as there are heartbreaking ones. This range of elements is what makes the story so honest and believable.

The hype surrounding the film’s release may be its only problem, as to start off with, it is perhaps a bit slow and it’s not instantly clear why it has received such praise. The Descendants is an amazing film, but in a much more subtle way than one might expect.

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