In most instances, once I have found a new film which I regard outstanding, I go ahead and find the back catalogue of the film director who made it in the hope of finding another gem just like the film I had just experienced.

For most of these searches I tend to grow weary very quickly, discovering that it was rather the script, the performances or just the political/social timing which made the film all the more special. Thankfully it was not the case at all with The Kids Are All Right and its writer/director Lisa Cholodenko.

 Cholodenko truly excels…

At first, I arrived at, probably the same place anyone reading this article ventures to with a film query. There under Cholodenko’s name, a small list of films and TV work appeared, and I began to filter through.

On the outside it looked to me like Cholodenko may have just managed to get lucky with her recent film – it was topical, personal and headed with a nice nurtured cast.

 …the characters seem to unravel as they explore the core passions that makes their life what it is.

But I wasn’t put off. Laurel Canyon had Frances McDormand as the lead, which meant that no matter what the direction was like it would be a film worth investing in.

A few weeks later it arrived on DVD. On a cold afternoon, whilst trying to forget about my university exams, I sat down and travelled to the small music producing community of Hollywood. Somehow that alone felt fresh, the setting which had become the cliché of all films avoided its setting as a movie making den, but rather re-established it as a bohemian music palace sheltered by twisted alleys and the nearby forested city setting.

 The greatest beauty in Cholodenko’s work is her ability to make you feel part of the passion presented on the screen.

Quickly it is clear that relationships become the foreground of the film’s message. As the plot played out, ideologies and identities were challenged; and quickly the film reached its cul-de-sac of no return. A short touching scene between mother and son is quickly thrown out of the window with memory of last night’s arguments, and it feels like we could do with another four long hours with this film to satisfy our needs.

It is here that Cholodenko truly excels, once the audience is hooked, and in love with every flaw of her characters, she escalates the situation into a realistic outcome. It was exactly this kind of moment, found in the end of the summer holidays in The Kids Are Alright which I had hoped to come across once more.

 …most of Cholodenko’s work feels very intimate…

In both instances she made the conclusion open ended, allowing us to imagine any outcome we wanted; whilst still hinting at what would happen in a real life situation.

Persuaded by this, I decided to buy High Art, which had managed to get much attention upon release in the critical world and has since become a classic on both Cholodenko’s career, and its outstanding ensemble cast of Patricia Clarkson asGreta and Ally Sheedy as the love interest of Radha Mitchell.

 …the characters seem to unravel as they explore the core passions that makes their life what it is.

Like most of Cholodenko’s work it feels very intimate, heavily laboured over, and rooted within an overarching theme which allows everything to cascade within it. For High Art, photography becomes this tool with which the characters circulate within, like music and science do for Laurel Canyon,  children do for The Kids Are Alright; the characters seem to unravel as they explore the core passions that makes their life what it is.

The greatest beauty for me in Cholodenko’s work is her ability to make you feel part of the passion presented on the screen. Whether it is the family woes, the tight close-up’s of characters watching one another; for example Julianne Moore’s growing awareness of her partner’s alcoholic abuse, or peer pressure.

There is something entirely unique about her work…

There is something entirely unique about her work, it is obviously personal, but not so personal that it is unrecognisable – but rather a mere step away from being perfectly intimate with her audience. As if she was whispering directly to you in a crowded public place. Some of it you will hear and understand, whilst other parts will be missed. Regardless it is addictive.

Image courtesy of Lisa Cholodenko



About The Author

I am currently a Film Studies student at Queen Mary University of London. Although my passion lies with Cinema, its production and consumption. I have lived abroad in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Israel, and through this I have managed to discover an interest in international culture, as well as national ones. I hope one day to achieve my dream job of being a film director - so look out (if all goes to plan).

One Response

  1. JayJ

    Hi there,

    I wld like 2 say wht a great article.

    I thought just the same about Laurel Canyon & Im yet 2 C High Art. Bt I will now.

    Keep up the good work. Thnx.




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