Family Struggles and Successes.
by Meredith O’Brien
*Warning: Mild spoilers ahead from The Kids Are All Right.*
When my husband and I left the theater at the end of The Kids Are All Right we were in agreement: The whole point of the film was that a family headed by two women isn’t, fundamentally, all that much different from a family headed by a man and a woman.
The film’s fictional couple, Nic and Jules (played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) -- who’d been together for quite some time and who’ve raised two children, a 15-year-old boy and an 18-year-old girl about to go to college – found that the non-stop demands of the domestic life of child-rearing and pressure from careers can oftentimes get in the way of your relationship, obscure and/or distort your view of your romantic partner.
This couple, like many, had grown to assume very specific roles in their family. Nic was the enforcer, the breadwinner. She made sure that her kids did what they were supposed to, whether it be their homework or writing thank you notes. Nic, an ob/gyn, had very high standards and a tough persona that initially came off as cold, but as the film progressed, Nic demonstrated that she had a soft inner core which’d melt when she heard the heartfelt strains of Joni Mitchell, whose albums Nic used to spend hours listening and crying to, in the days before she was responsible for making enough money to support a family of four.
Her partner, Jules, once wanted to be an architect, but instead wound up trying her hand at different disciplines over the years – as the film began she was trying to get a landscape architecture business off the ground -- that’s when she wasn’t being an at-home mom raising the couple’s two children. Jules was the soft one, the fun one who didn’t make the kids write those thank you notes, who just wanted to be laid back about everything.
Hence the conflict.
Nic wasn’t always the enforcer, but, when she and Jules created a family, someone had to play that role, and when she did, something in her relationship with Jules shifted over time. Because they had kids. Because when you raise children things have to change. Rearing those beloved children – very much wanted by this couple who went to the trouble of obtaining sperm donations from the same donor so they were each able to experience pregnancy and childbirth – oftentimes the cherubs can come in between the loving couple. It’s the same story with every couple that’s been together for a long time and raises a family.