“The Kids Are All Right” is a 2010 film directed by Lisa Cholodenko, starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo. It tells the story of married, lesbian couple Nic (Bening) and Jules (Moore). They each gave birth to a child from the same anonymous sperm donor. The youngest, fifteen year old Laser (Josh Hutcherson), is interested in finding their sperm donor, and pressures his older sister, Joni (Mia Wasikowska), who recently turned eighteen, into doing it for him. They find their donor father Paul (Ruffalo), a laid-back guy who runs his own farm and restaurant. The kids are interested in continuing to see him, and he starts to get more involved with the whole family’s lives. He ends up asking Jules to help landscape his backyard, and while she’s working for him, they have an affair. One night, when the family is over at Paul’s house for dinner, Nic finds out about the affair after finding some of Jules’s hair on a brush and in the shower. After confronting and getting a confession from Jules, tensions are high at home. Paul believes he has fallen in love with Jules, and suggests her marriage with Nic is already falling apart, she should just take the kids and move in with him, but she declines. Paul turns up at the house the night before Joni is to leave for college, and Nic angrily confronts him and turns him away. After this, Jules apologizes for her actions and begs for forgiveness from her family. The next morning, they all drive Joni to college, without Paul. Nic and Jules affectionately hug Joni goodbye together. On the ride back, Laser says they’re too old to break up, and the film ends with Nic and Jules smiling and holding hands.
The film is an excellent representation of a normal, same-sex couple. It portrays a family going through difficult times. One child about to leave for college, another in the troublesome teenage years, and a struggling, long-term marriage. The major problem has little to do with the fact that Nic and Jules are a lesbian couple, other than that Paul is their sperm donor. Though sperm donation isn’t simply unique to lesbians. Straight couples and even single women can and do get sperm donors. Jules cheats on Nic with Paul, not because she’s “becoming straight” like Nic questions, but because Jules desires support for her landscaping work, and Paul is offering that while Nic is extremely critical. The tension on their marriage is from them being together for so long, like many straight marriages. The problems they have with their kids, such as Joni about to leave for college and Laser hanging out with the wrong crowd, are similar to the same problems straight parents have. All the struggles they face have very little to do with their sexual orientation, showing that same-sex marriages go through the same matters as straight marriages.
One major critique is that the film follows the idea of the straight mind. Nic is clearly supposed to be the “man” of the relationship, and Jules the “woman.” Nic has a very masculine poise, is the breadwinner of the family, turns to work and wine when she feels lonely, and even has an ambiguously male name. At one point, Paul even refers to her as “my brother from another mother.” Jules is the more feminine character, trying to start her own business at home, and dresses more feminine with longer hair. Instead of adopting children, they both decide to go through pregnancy and childbirth, similar to what straight couples tend to desire. They experience little to no discrimination for their sexual orientation, and while ideal in a perfect world, doesn’t accurately represent what real lesbian couples experience.
Any possibility of sexual spectrum is removed and bisexual erasure is promoted in the scene where Nic confronts Jules about the affair. She asks Jules “are you straight now?” as if sexuality is something that can be turned on and off with no gray area.
Overall, the film is great representation of an average, lesbian marriage. It’s a normality that needs to be promoted more often in the movie industry. Though nowhere near suitable to represent all same-sex marriages, it’s headed in the right direction.