Dreading Family Time This Thanksgiving? These Dysfunctional Families Will Make You Appreciate Your Own
For those of you who dread this time of year because it means copious amounts of time spent with family, you’re not alone. Even if many of us are gathering over Zoom this year, we still have to make conversation with judgmental aunts and field questions about our love life from every single relative. It’s enough to put us off of our turkey. But as challenging as you think your family is, we guarantee you they’re not as flawed as these 10 families we’re about to introduce. We like our families as dysfunctional as possible, because not only does that make for more captivating storytelling, but it also makes us feel a little bit better about our own loved ones. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, we can’t choose our families—but we can at least choose one, or a few, to stream. Here are 10 of our very favorite series and films on Topic centered around family dynamics and dysfunctions. They’ll make you appreciate your family a little more and—who knows—you might even look forward to Thanksgiving.
This gripping drama starring Christopher Eccleston and Paula Malcomson turns the societal notion of happily ever after completely upside down. Marie is married to her loving husband, Greg, and the couple have three beautiful kids. So why does she walk out on all of them? The story unfolds through each of their perspectives, revealing that there’s so much more than meets the eye. Whatever notions about Marie and Greg that you start out with will be challenged again and again until you’re left with nothing but deep empathy for them both.
Three siblings equally lost in life are suddenly ordered to reunite in their hometown by their mother. What could go wrong? What starts out as a family-wide task turns into a walk down memory lane that resurfaces painful pasts. Will it tear them apart or bring them closer together? Either way, expect family hijinks along the way. “F#*!king Adelaide” is for anyone who moved out of their home the first chance they got.
Led by a career-defining performance by Stephen Graham, Shane Meadows’s four-part miniseries is a powerful story of family and redemption. When his son moves to Australia with his ex, Joseph is left alone with his old bad habits. With nothing to lose, he decides to go back to Ireland and confront the traumatic past that won’t stop haunting him. There he tracks down his estranged sister, whom he was separated from by the care system over 30 years ago. Though his time in Ireland is defined by a harrowing confrontation with an abuser from his childhood, Joseph comes away from the experience with a newfound family, and a love interest to boot.
This is literally every mother’s worst nightmare. Tilda Swinton plays a matriarch whose son shows signs of being evil from a very early age. As a young child, he tortures her with his petulance and rejects her affection. When the family has a second child, he starts turning on his younger sister and a shocking incident points to his increasing sadism. But that’s just the beginning. This haunting drama will make you question everything you knew about family.
Like a real-life “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” this true-crime documentary is a heartbreaking account of one mother’s attempt to cope with her son’s unthinkable act. Charity’s 13-year-old son, Paris, is charged with murdering her 4-year-old daughter, Ella. As she’s left to pick up the pieces, she’s riddled by regret, guilt, and moral confusion. Would getting Paris help be betraying Ella? Can she ever forgive Paris? Then the story takes a twist and Charity is left with even bigger, more daunting questions about her family.
After 6-year-old Frida loses both of her parents, she leaves her Barcelona apartment behind and moves to the countryside to live with her uncle and his family. There she finds her footing in a new life with new relatives who show her a different definition of family. The film tenderly shows Frida navigating her new world, holding on to her childhood after a life-changing event that would devastate most adults.
Imagine living a quaint life and then finding a portal into an eye-opening unknown world; now imagine if you were a teen. That’s the sense of excitement and wonder this beautifully lush film captures. Teenage daughter Gelsomina comes from a family of beekeepers in a small Italian village with Etruscan roots. When a reality TV crew comes into town to document the community’s traditional Etruscan way of life, Gelsomina is immediately intrigued, especially by the enigmatic TV host, played by the ever-stunning Monica Bellucci.
Val spends her life taking care of another family, but when her own daughter, Jessica, shows up one day, Val’s life is thrown into chaos. Unburdened by the social and class boundaries of the house, Jessica starts making herself at home, to her mother’s frustration. Jessica’s arrival makes Val evaluate where her loyalties lie—with the family she’s come to consider her own or with her biological daughter she barely knows.
Comedian Robin Cloud grew up hearing about the “Nebraska cousins,” a branch of her family tree that has been, unbeknownst to them, passing as white for decades. Cloud decides to track them down to tell them the truth and welcome them to the family. What ensues is a journey that examines heritage, racial identity, and family connection. As the bridge between her “white” relatives and the rest of her Southern family, Cloud will learn if blood truly is thicker than water.
In this drama, home is where family is—even if that means living in a tent in the forest. Based on a true story, “Leave No Trace” follows a father and daughter who live a happy life in the Oregon wilderness completely off the grid until they’re caught one day by law enforcement. When they’re forced to integrate into society, cracks begin to form between the once-solid duo. They set out to return to their independent lives, but now nothing feels the same.