So often, dealing with family drama in films is portrayed by this otherwise cookie-cutter family who just so happens to be a bit dysfunctional. They argue, they throw things at each other, and then realize they love each other regardless and proceed to laugh about it all over eggnog at Christmas. “Bad Hurt” deals with the family drama much more maturely than any film has in a while. It is often hard to watch, yes, but the fractures in the armor of The Kendall family are also the ones that allow us a peek into perseverance and hard truths faced in an oftentimes bleak family outlook in a seemingly forgotten place.
The Kendall family faces a lot of hardship. Todd (Theo Rossi) is trying to live up to his father Ed (Michael Harney) and brother Kent’s (Johnny Whitworth) success in the military, although he isn’t accepted into either the military or the local police force and drives a bus for a living instead. Ed is distant from his family and obviously overwhelmed and miserable over his children and his life. His wife Elaine (Karen Allen) is busy taking care of their mentally challenged daughter, DeeDee (Iris Gilad), and Ed practically ignores his eldest son who struggles with drug addiction and doesn’t get any support as a Gulf War veteran. The family focus is on Todd, and occasionally his mother and father and how they all deal with the constant struggles they face on a daily basis.
"Bad Hurt" is most certainly heavy with themes about family. Its drama (or melodrama, depending on how you look at it) is self-contained, to the point where the tumultuous and strained relationships occasionally feel claustrophobic. However, between DeeDee and Kent's struggles and Todd's obsession with wanting to hear about his dad's glorified tales of his time in the military, everything can become overwhelming. Thankfully, the way it plays out is never heavy-handed.
The performances are what truly carry the film. The cast is very much an ensemble where no one character is the center of the movie's focus. They function as a family unit and every action taken by one character subsequently affects another person. The film heavily relies on the cast to carry the story and because the emotional weight is high, it's through the dialogue and interactions that helps you invest in the relationships and dynamics of the characters.
Co-writer and director Mark Kemble infuses the film with enough heartache to shatter the emotional barriers in the Kendall family, but he generally does so with sensitivity and maturity. The film has a turning point about three-quarters of the way through that leads to an ending that isn't clean cut or neatly tied up, but hopeful. "Bad Hurt" is a character-driven story with a great ensemble cast and some good emotional beats.