Some overlooked indie films about family
We recommend these quiet, powerful films about families surviving the hardships of poverty, racism, or death. In each film, emotional growth comes from adversity. Find out for yourself why these dramas have such high scores in Rotten Tomatoes rating system.
NIGHT CATCHES US (2010) by Tanya Hamilton Rotten Tomatoes score: 81%
In 1976, after years of mysterious absence, Marcus (Anthony Mackie, THE HURT LOCKER) returns to the Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age in the midst of the Black Power movement. While his arrival raises suspicion among his family and former neighbors, he finds acceptance from his old friend Patricia (Kerry Washington, RAY) and her daughter. However, Marcus quickly finds himself at odds with the organization he once embraced, whose members suspect he orchestrated the slaying of their former comrade-in-arms. In a startling sequence of events, Marcus must protect a secret that could shatter everyone's beliefs as he rediscovers his forbidden passion for Patricia.
Nominated: Grand Jury Prize, 2010 Sundance Film Festival; Best First Feature, 2011 Independent Spirit Awards; Breakthrough Director Award, 2010 Gotham Awards
BALLAST (2008) by Lance Hammer (pictured, above) Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
In the cold, winter light of a rural Mississippi Delta township, a man's suicide radically transforms three characters' lives and throws off-balance what has long been a static arrangement among them. Marlee is a single mother struggling to scratch out a living for herself and James, her 12-year-old son, who has begun to stumble under drug and violence pressures. So when the opportunity to seek safe harbor at a new home arises, she grabs it, though the property is shared by Lawrence, a man with whom Marlee has feuded bitterly since James's birth. With circumstances thrusting them into proximity, a subtle interdependence and common purpose emerge for Marlee and Lawrence as they navigate grief, test new waters and move forward.
Won: Special Jury Prize, Revelations Prize, 2008 Deauville Film Festival
Nominated: Golden Berlin Bear, 2008 Berlin International Film Festival; Best Feature, Best Director, Best First Screenplay, Best Female Lead (Riggs), Best Supporting Male (Ross), Best Cinematography, 2009 Independent Spirit Awards
FROZEN RIVER (2008) by Courtney Hunt Rotten Tomatoes score: 87%
Life in Massena is as harsh and barren as the frigid landscape. In this bleak terrain, two hardened single mothers are trying to make lives for their children. Lila is a widowed Mohawk whose mother-in-law "stole" her newborn son a year ago. Ray is a mother of two whose gambling-addicted husband just left town with the down payment for their new trailer home. Faced with little opportunity to make ends meet, Ray and Lila embark on an illegal venture transporting immigrants into the U.S. across Mohawk territory. With the money for the down payment within Ray's grasp, the women are determined to make one last run. When circumstances spiral out of control, the two women must make life or death decisions based on their friendship and love for their children.
Won: Grand Jury Prize, 2008 Sundance Film Festival; Best Film, Breakthrough Award, 2008 Gotham Awards; Best Actress (Melissa Leo), Producers Award, 2009 Independent Spirit Awards
WINTER’S BONE by Debra Granik (2010) (pictured, above) Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%
17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) sets out to track down her father, who put their house up for his bail bond and then disappeared. If she fails, Ree and her family will be turned out into the Ozark woods. Challenging her outlaw kin_ s code of silence and risking her life, Ree hacks through the lies, evasions and threats offered up by her relatives and begins to piece together the truth.
Won: Grand Jury Prize, Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, 2010 Sundance Film Festival; CICAE Award, Reader Jury of the "Tagesspiegel," 2010 Berlin International Film Festival