Shock: it’s when you hurt so bad you don’t feel anymore,” says Ed (Michael Harney: Ocean’s Thirteen). He’s ostensibly talking about physical, medical shock, but it’s debatable whether he and the rest of his hard-put-upon family are already past that point emotionally, or merely wishing for it. It’s Christmastime 1999 in New York’s remote borough, Staten Island… a metaphor, perhaps, for the social isolation of the Kendall family. Son Kent (Johnny Whitworth: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance), a military veteran suffering from PTSD and possibly Gulf War syndrome, is not able to take care of himself; neither is his sister, DeeDee (Iris Gilad), who is mentally disabled and appears to have some fairly extreme behavioral problems. Their utterly drained mother, Elaine (Karen Allen: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), spends her days caring for her children even though they’re well into adulthood, with no end in sight and no respite that we ever see. At least Ed, her husband, and their other son, Todd (Theo Rossi: Cloverfield), who still lives with them, can escape to the bar down the street once in a while. First-time filmmaker Mark Kemble, adapting his autobiographical play Bad Hurt on Cedar Street, has crafted a sensitively observed family drama in which secret and not-so-secret hopes for just a hint of a better life are constantly smacked down, sometimes with cruel deliberation, sometimes unwittingly; sometimes a tiny lifeline of kindness comes out of nowhere, and hits the viewer like a brick wall of overwhelming feeling, and sometimes those lifelines turn accidentally terrible. Exhaustion of mind and body is the primary sentiment here, and the entire cast draws us into it with an intimacy that is as palpable as it is uncompromising; there were moments when I felt like I shouldn’t be watching. (Allen is particularly good as a woman who is so determined to carry on that she appears not to realize how tired she is.) But it’s the tiny details here — details so full of an authenticity so absurd that they have to be real — that convince you that you are peering in on one family’s messy reality.
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