Three films about…families: Brightburn (2019), Us (2019) and Marriage Story (2019)

Barnaby Page
17 min readJun 4

Why am I writing about these movies now?

Well, I’m moving my back catalogue of movie (and occasionally TV) reviews from another site to Medium — covering many of the best-known releases of the last decade, as well as more obscure fare. To make it a bit more fun, I’ll be grouping them thematically (as here), but unless I spot actual errors I’m not doing any editing…so my opinion may have changed since I first wrote them!

My reviews of new cinema, streaming and disc releases, as well as retrospectives on old (and not-so-old) classics, will mostly continue to appear on the Medium publication Frame Rated.

Anyway, here goes. Enjoy…


Describing Brightburn as a horror inversion of the superhero (and specifically Superman) origin story, as most critics have done, is certainly not wrong; but it also misses a central point of the film. For this is equally a black, very black, comedy about children and parents and the way that the former stray from the latter’s expectations, more and more resolutely as they grow up.

It’s a great idea to combine this with a riff on Superman where the young Clark Kent-like figure, an extraterrestrial adopted by human parents in rural Kansas, turns out to be an amoral alien apparently dedicated to destroying humanity (starting small, becoming better at it as he gets older).

So it’s a pity that Brightburn is often so dull in execution — despite some individually good scenes and a striking performance from Jackson A. Dunn as the superpowered youngster, it doesn’t have much in the way of real plot (as opposed to premise), and large parts amount to little more than one kill after another.

The superpowers become interesting in themselves at the very end of the movie, when it is finally clear that the boy — aged about 12 — is not just indulging in the Krypton version of acting out, but is set on destruction: a very grim coda depicts how the devastation grows in parallel to his strength. There is no telling where it might stop. By this point in the film he is single-minded: where Superman’s flight path with Lois Lane in 1978 was a curved, gentle glide, Dunn’s equivalent with a less…

Barnaby Page

Barnaby is a journalist based in Suffolk, UK. By day he covers science and public policy; by night, film and classical music. He has also been a cinema manager.