'Junebug'

Nominee: Best Spiritual Film of 2005

"Junebug," the offbeat dramedy that is part prodigal-son parable and part fish-out-of-water story, offers an inspirational, authentic, and complex portrayal of the spiritual values underlying a dysfunctional family reunion. There is nothing predictable about the way this movie tells the tale of George, a man who takes his new wife, Madeline--a high-end art dealer based in Chicago--home to North Carolina to meet his family.



Though it doesn't take long for ambition and intellectual-chic to collide with down-home, old-fashioned family values, the movie refuses to let us pigeonhole the not-so sharp brother, Johnny, or the innocent, religiously fervent but slightly ditzy sister, Ashley--or even the sophisticated, successful, highly secular Madeline. In "Junebug," no one is the hero and no one is the villain. There are no saints in this story, but everyone is a sinner. As we watch each character wrestle uncomfortably with his or her shortcomings, doubts and fears, grace, hope and healing are found in the simplest acts--a look, a touch, a single word--rather than in big dramatic exchanges.

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Another element that makes "Junebug" as outstanding as it is inspiring is the way the film leaves plenty of room for interpretation as to which of the characters have truly connected with their faith, or each other, and which ones haven't. The final conversation of the film between George and Madeline, which takes place as they leave North Carolina, may haunt me forever. This movie could have easily been nothing more than yet another preachy, cartoonish portrayal of fundamentalist faith, but instead, "Junebug" successfully avoids every obvious spiritual cliché we have seen on the big screen, and treats us to a thought-provoking, emotionally satisfying journey worthy of being celebrated.

--By Kris Rasmussen
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