Family and Heartbreak: ‘This Is Us’ Review

In Movie & TV Reviews by John LaCrosse

— By Carly Twehous —

Randall is a moderately successful lawyer, with a wife, two daughters, and an estranged, terminally ill biological father who’s now living in the guest bedroom.

Kevin is the dreamer of improbable dreams, whose face is plastered on every billboard across America, but loses a piece of his soul every time he steps in front of the cameras.

Kate is the chick who can hardly stand to look at her reflection, let alone the number on the bathroom scale, and cannot possibly fathom that someone could see her as beautiful.

Jack is the All-American man, who works in a cubicle to make ends meet in order to pay the mortgage on a small, suburban house and provide for the love of his life, who is nine months pregnant.

The brain, the washed-up actor, the recovering basket case… and the guy from Heroes.

Strangely enough, all four of them share the same birthday and their lives are more intimately tied together than anyone could’ve guessed in the opening scenes of the pilot episode. (Believe me, I’m not touching that particular spoiler with a ten-foot poll. Go watch it for yourself. It’s worth it.)

This Is Us brings something to the table that has been mysteriously absent from American television: Family. Not family in the soap-opera sense of Days of Our Lives or in the dysfunctional, bizarre humor of Modern Family or Jane the Virgin, but in the traditional sense that America lost somewhere in the fog of political correctness.

Family is man and wife, as Jack falls in love over and over again with his wife throughout her high-risk pregnancy. Family is rituals, just as Kate sits down on the couch every Sunday to watch the Steeler’s game with the ashes of her father. Family is brokenness, as Randall desperately tries to reconcile with his father before he’s gone for good. Family is reconciliation and a couch to crash on, just as Kevin loses everything and travels across the country, only to beg his brother for forgiveness, even though he knew he had no right to it.

Family is loyalty and betrayal and fidelity and tears cried into pillows late at night. Family is everything that those sitcoms and soap-operas forget and fail to mention.

With a large, ensemble cast, This Is Us masterfully weaves together seemingly unconnected characters in a manner not often seen off the pages of the greatest novelists. Even with so many faces, names, and different worlds to remember, the audience is never far from the raw humanity of the four main characters who miraculously share a birthday.

Instead of carelessly throwing in the formulaic package of political correctness and critic-bait that is brainlessly infused in most modern network shows, This Is Us portrays such raw humanity and natural virtue that even the producers seem to have forgotten that this story came out of Hollywood, California. Rather, this particular story feels like one of Dad’s stories that he tells every Thanksgiving… or whenever the opportunity presents itself. It’s funny and infused with every single one of his stupid jokes. It’s sentimental and romantic and a little bit desperate for understanding.

Ultimately, the story is heartbreaking, even if it presents a brave face and whispers, “I’m fine.”

This Is Us is refreshingly human and offers a pure reflection of what family is supposed to be.

If we’re being totally honest here, nothing this side of paradise can break your heart like your family can.

 

About the Author
Carly Twehous is a screenwriting student at JPCatholic who possesses a slightly inordinate love of both chocolate and comic books. In what little free time she has, she makes use of it by time traveling, ghost busting, and furiously scouring the globe for potential alien activity.