'The Kids Are All Right' is one of the most vibrant depictions of family life on the big screen in quite some time. It's a smart and light-hearted comedy that tackles the basic problems and obstacles confronting families, regardless of their household circumstances. In a world so self-obsessed, it is refreshing to touch upon themes that are rarely explored, on such a large level and with such emotional depth.

Nic (Bening) and Jules (Moore) are a Californian lesbian couple who have been together for more than 20 years. Through the help of an anonymous sperm donor they each have a child - 18-year-old Joni (Wasikowska), and 15-year-old Laser (Hutcherson). When Joni turns 18, Laser persuades her to track down their biological father via their mothers' sperm bank.

Surprisingly, their father Paul (Ruffalo), a restaurant owner and organic farmer, is completely unfazed by the sudden arrival of his teenage children. As Paul gets acquainted with his new family, his presence in their lives leads to an unanticipated outcome.

Bening and Moore make a truly credible couple, creating a strong central relationship that is clearly full of affection, but also has identifiable problems - Nic is a doctor while Jules has had several failed businesses through the years, financed by Nic. However, it is Ruffalo who steals the movie. Paul certainly could have been a stereotype, but there is something so spirited about the way Ruffalo makes his character come to life that it keeps the story real and interesting. Hutcherson and Wasikowska offer strong support and contribute to the overall authenticity of the movie.

One of the finest scenes in the film is when the kids meet up with their biological father for the first time: it is unbelievably awkward. Also, the scene in which Paul discovers that he and Nic both love the same Joni Mitchell song and sing it together is delightful.

The outstanding script is full of powerful dialogue and Cholodenko's direction is excellent - she doesn't try to use wit as a mechanism to influence audiences into feeling more comfortable with gay relationships.

'The Kids Are All Right' opens the door to a brand new interpretation of family values that leaves you appreciative of what you have in life. An amalgamation of family, love, friendship, humour and warmth make it one of this year's most honest and charming films.

This flick is more than just alright; it's exceptional. Definitely one to watch out for at next year's Oscars.

Laura Delaney