‘Junebug’ feels very much like a small scale indie film with an element of documentary filmmaking behind it, this is by no means a bad thing as it makes the whole story come across as more real and more grounded. It’s directed by Phil Morrison with a sense of slow building family drama; the repetitive uses of static shots of nature or interior shots of the Johnsten’s home all help add to this idea. It’s a story based on the themes of marriage and relationships. One partnership have been married for a while since being childhood sweethearts and the others are a more recent wedded duo with the honeymoon phase still apparent. The main focus though is on outsiders and city versus a more rural life. This is where the biggest development of dramatic tension occurs when people start finding themselves in different situations.
I found the characters to be the biggest strength in the movie with every character having either an interesting or complex background to try and make you understand their motives. The best character was Ashley, the pregnant wife who sees good in everything and is played superbly by Amy Adams in the role that thrust her into the limelight. You can see why, as she is truly captivating, you can’t help but look at her in scenes even when she isn’t speaking as her doe eyed character reacts to events and conversations around her. She comes across as naive and innocent though deep down you sense she’s trying to keep buried the fear and worry that her marriage is wrong. The moment when she breaks down is powerful just because up to that moment she’s been so smiley and radiant. It’s a lovely and strong performance and you really feel for her throughout. The character of Johnny is an odd one to try and gauge his motivations as he’s such an unlikeable man. There’s one specific moment where you see him trying to do something good and you realise he’s just bad with speaking and bad with romance in front of others, it’s a sweet moment that fails but he at least he tried. After this he reverts back to mute, angry and unlikeable. The time that he flips out or throws a tool at his brother’s head can only be looked on as his inner turmoils of jealousy. That’s the only option I can stump for that gives him reason to act the way he does otherwise he’s just a horrible man. Character progression worked well in Johnny’s brother George who reveals to his wife and the audience his background of a religious county boy more and through that you see him as less than a pompous city slicker.
The theme of city and country plays its part in Johnny finding his brother better than him, more liked than him and thus provides Johnny the ammunition to be mopey. Madeline who is George’s new wife is an art dealer and through the highly weird meetings she has with an undiscovered artist you get the simple enough decision of family against work and the option she chooses makes a massive effect on the ending of the film. The end is weird with the choice George makes but clearly he’s happy with that life to choose. The strongest parts of the film were at the Johnsten’s house with snide looks or cuts to still shots leading to feelings that the home was being watched, invaded by the outside world of Madeline and George. The character work also felt good even with Madeline she never came across as detestable, she tried to help and was interested in others to a degree. Johnny was the only character that went no where and felt lost. The ending was abrupt and not one I overly liked but then life does throw up weird decisions so that could be why.
A realistic family drama with a more homely touch and a wonderful performance from a younger Amy Adams who shines as the star in this film.