Our American Family 2021
Distributed by Good Docs
Produced by Hallee Alderman and Sean King O'Grady
Directed by Hallee Alderman and Sean King O'Grady
Streaming, 87 mins
Drug addiction; Family relations
Date Entered: 03/07/2023Reviewed by Kay Hogan Smith, Retired - University of Alabama at Birmingham, Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences
In the luckiest of families, intrafamily relationships and communications are often a tangle. Insert into that natural ecosystem an existential threat like addiction and mental health issues, and the potential for misunderstanding, resentment and frustration – not to mention lasting alienation - increases exponentially. Our American Family honestly and skillfully illustrates these fraught family dynamics over the course of many months following one suburban Philadelphia family’s journey along with the 29-year-old daughter’s struggle to overcome the substance addiction which very nearly killed her. As the documentary gradually familiarizes the viewer with her, it also introduces her family, providing firsthand perspectives from all parties. Each member in his or her own way – Nicole, her mother, 2 brothers, and stepfather – must negotiate their fear, anger and mistrust that this time Nicole will be able to succeed through rehabilitation and achieve long-term sobriety. Complicating matters is the daughter’s small child (temporarily in the custody of her mother), not to mention generational mental health/addiction issues involving the siblings’ father, brother Chris, and grandmother. The film uses adept pacing and cinematography in exploring the jumble of emotions on display while the family gradually moves toward optimism as Nicole manages to get past the stumbling blocks that had previously triggered a relapse. Our American Family is a painful, frank and ultimately hopeful look at a family dealing with an all-too-common issue.
Awards: Audience Award, Woodstock Film Festival 2021; Honorable Mention for Authenticity, Philadelphia Film Festival 2021
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