The American drama film Montana Story, written and directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, hit theaters last May 13, 2022, and has received generally positive reviews. The film stars Haley Lu Richardson, Owen Teague, Kimberly Guerrero, Gilbert Owuor, Asivak Koostachin, and Eugene Brave Rock. With Montana’s sweeping landscapes as a backdrop of the film, it follows the story of estranged siblings who are reunited at their family ranch to care for their ailing father. Together they must confront the family burdens and revisit childhood wounds as they pick up the pieces of what’s left of what once was their home. In a review published by The New York Times, they praised Richardson and Teague’s performances saying, “There’s much to like in “Montana Story,” including Teague and Richardson, who, whether together or alone, retain an emotional integrity.” If you’re done watching Montana Story and you were moved by the film like we were, here are five movies about family and reconciliation worth watching.
The 2019 American comedy-drama film The Farewell is written and directed by Lulu Wang, and stars Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, and Zhao Shuzhen. Just like Montana Story, the film centers on a family brought together by tragic news. It follows a Chinese-American family who returns to China in order to spend time with their grandmother, “Nai Nai “ who only has a few weeks to live. The older family members agree not to tell Nai Nai about her condition and instead plan a big wedding for their relative in order to gather all the family members and make Nai Nai happy. The film is said to be loosely based on director Wang’s life experiences. The film received critical acclaim with particular praise for Wang’s screenplay and the performances of Awkwafina and Zhao Shuzhen. The film earned two nominations at the 77th Golden Globe Awards including Best Foreign Language Film, with Awkwafina winning Best Actress – Musical or Comedy. In a review by The Guardian, they praised Wang’s screenplay and wrote, “As gifted a writer as she is at creating playful, visually layered frames, Wang is constantly juggling clashes – of cultures, of tragedy and joy.”
The 2020 psychological drama film The Father, directed by Florian Zeller in his directorial debut with a screenplay he co-wrote with Christopher Hampton, follows an aging man suffering from dementia and his deteriorating relationships with his loved ones. The film stars Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, and Olivia Williams. The film received several accolades including Best Actor (Hopkins) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Hampton) and six nominations including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Colman), four nominations at the 78th Golden Globe Awards, and six nominations at the 74th British Academy Film Awards, winning Best Actor (Hopkins) and Best Adapted Screenplay. Empire gave a five-star review of the film and wrote, “It’s a tough watch, for sure, not least in the astonishing, tear-jerking final five minutes. But it’s also gripping and audacious, twisting the conventions of narrative storytelling to match the awful effects of the disease it’s portraying.”
Captain Fantastic is a 2016 American drama film written and directed by Matt Ross, starring Viggo Mortensen, Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, and Steve Zahn. The film follows a father and his children living off-grid away from society and modern life. Faced with a tragic event, the family is forced to face society and the children explore the outside world for the first time. The film received positive reviews from critics with particular praise for Mortensen’s performance which earned him a nomination for Best Actor at the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and Academy Awards. Rolling Stone commended different aspects of the film in their review and wrote, “It’s true that the conflict is drawn on familiar lines with clichés ever ready to invade. But Ross never trades in the humanity of his characters for an easy laugh or tear. The film’s authenticity extends to the natural-light cinematography of the gifted Stéphane Fontaine (A Prophet) and the crisp editing of Joseph Krings (Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead). Still, it’s the actors who make us believe.”
Manchester by the Sea
Manchester by the Sea is a 2016 American drama film written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan that stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, and Lucas Hedges. Just like Montana Story, the protagonist of the film must return to his hometown and face wounds in his past that he starts to heal along the way and take care of his teenage nephew. The film received critical acclaim and won several awards including Best Actor for Affleck and Best Original Screenplay, and nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Hedges), and Best Supporting Actress (Williams) at the 89th Academy Awards, and Best Actor at the Golden Globe Awards. In addition, the film also earned six nominations at BAFTAs and won Best Actor (Affleck) and Best Original Screenplay. The Guardian gave a five–star review of the film saying, “Manchester By the Sea is a sombre and wintry film, and in fact the sheer arctic chill is what delays the funeral and creates the important, though hardly palliative interval in which the drama can take place and feelings can be worked through, as far as that’s possible. It is a movie composed in an inexpressibly sad minor key.”
Little Miss Sunshine
A film that also dwells on a dysfunctional family is the 2006 American black comedy Little Miss Sunshine, directed by husband-wife tandem Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris in their directorial debut with a screenplay by Michael Arndt, who was a neophyte writer back then. The film stars Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, and Alan Arkin, and follows a family who accompanies the youngest member of the family to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Little Miss Sunshine was a commercial success and received critical acclaim. The film received several accolades including four nominations at the Academy Awards, winning Best Original Screenplay (Michael Arndt) and Best Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin). The film also won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. In a review by The New York Times, they wrote, “Little Miss Sunshine” doesn’t look particularly ambitious, in terms of either its narrative or its function-over-form visual style. But tucked in between all the hurt and the jokes, the character development and the across-the-board terrific performances is a surprisingly sharp look at contemporary America, one that sets the metaphor of the stage (and, by extension, competition) against the cherished myth of the open road.”