The Descendants

As seen at the Odeon on Head Street Colchester

Islands of paradise, an intriguing title, George Clooney and evolving plot lines. Pair this with the cascading whispers of the approaching Oscars and it appears Alex Payne’s The Descendants contains all the right elements to rouse high expectations.

The story revolves around Matt King (Clooney), a workaholic lawyer whose ordered world is thrown into turmoil after a string of dramatic events. The saga begins when his thrill seeking wife falls into a coma after a power boat accident; meaning he must face the crumbling relationship he now has with her and the fact she may never recover. He becomes thrust into the position of being the father he never was to his two boisterous daughters. King also is blindsided by the fact his wife, Elizabeth, may have been having an affair at the time of the accident.

On top of all of this, King must decide the fate of a vast, beautiful, untouched land that has been in his family for generations. The sale of this land would make King and his cousins massively rich; now he must choose whether to sell to the highest bidder or a local business man. Not only that, but he must consider what it will mean for his fellow islanders and if this area of monumental natural beauty should be transformed into an area of commerce.

Drama and comedy ensue like two wonderfully intertwining ice dancers gracefully gliding to their epic conclusion. This in no normal, by the numbers, tear jerker; it is full of subtly and realism which speaks volumes. This is a picture with sincerity and dignity which delivers a huge array of emotions in the most believable manner. Personally, I have found Clooney in the past rather similar to Will Smith; in that he almost plays the same character whatever film he stars in. In The Descendants, Clooney breaks this tradition and delivers probably his finest performance to date. He traverses and flows through anger, confusion, vulnerability, torment, and strength. You are taken on a journey where you experience everything from King’s perspective: the positive straight through to the negative. Sometimes Clooney achieves this with just the use of his eyes. It is truly a remarkable performance.

Clooney’s accomplishment was made all the better from the incredible supporting performances around him. Primarily by King’s daughters who did not make his life any easier; clearly highlighting the parental inadequacies he suffered with. Amara Miller who plays Scotti, the youngest daughter, delivered a performance beyond her years and portrayed a young girl trying to deal with her mother’s comatose condition who has an inner strength that some adults lacked. Shailene Woodley plays the eldest daughter Alex. She is definitely a talent to watch out for; the scene where the actual condition of her mother is broken to her was a clear demonstration of her talent.

The cinematography was beautifully executed; water being a key feature. It was where the accident happened and shots of the island were rarely seen without the gorgeous surrounding waters. The film itself ebbs and flows between the plots and stories and this combined with the local music in the soundtrack genuinely transported you to the island itself.

Imitating real life there are positive as well as negative emotions and Alex Payne has kept everything perfectly balanced. This film is emotional, provocative, compelling and charming with an air of authenticity. It is very clear to see why The Descendants could do very well at the Oscars. This is a beautiful adaptation of the book and a definite must see.

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