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Prodigal Sons (2010)



Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 27
Fresh: 24 | Rotten: 3

Fascinating and heartbreakingly honest, Kimberly Reed's family documentary uses its stranger-than-fiction story to speak near-universal truths about family bonds and human identity.


Average Rating: 7/10
Critic Reviews: 12
Fresh: 10 | Rotten: 2

Fascinating and heartbreakingly honest, Kimberly Reed's family documentary uses its stranger-than-fiction story to speak near-universal truths about family bonds and human identity.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 461

My Rating

Movie Info

In this impressive personal documentary, filmmaker Kimberly Reed attempts to reconcile with her long-estranged brother Marc, with whom she's been a rival since childhood. Their paths diverged long ago: Marc was permanently debilitated in a car accident, while Kim left their small-town roots on a journey of self-discovery. Full of twists and turns involving Hollywood royalty and sexual and gender identities, high school reunions in Montana and family reunions in Croatia, Prodigal Sons sensitively


Documentary, Special Interest

Kimberly Reed

May 18, 2010

First Run Features - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (27) | Top Critics (12) | Fresh (24) | Rotten (3) | DVD (1)

A film that will fascinate inquisitive viewers on multiple levels.

September 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

At the heart of Prodigal Sons, a family drama in the form of a succinct, eloquent personal journal, is a sibling rivalry whose reverberations touch upon the very essence of human identity...

March 18, 2010 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A consistently generous film.

March 12, 2010 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Kimberly Reed started out to make a movie about starting over, but then life got in the way. It didn't make her job harder. It made the movie better.

March 12, 2010 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The problem with family-diary documentaries is that some families have too much drama for just one movie.

March 12, 2010 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Sometimes we forget that when documentary filmmakers begin a project, they don't always know what they'll be filming because, to state the obvious, real life doesn't work from a script.

March 4, 2010 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This film should be shown to every parent of a gay child.

September 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Glenn Dunks
Glenn Dunks

While Reed's own self-exposure shows insight, her presentation of her brother's suffering comes across as an unprocessed spectacle of misery that hasn't been adequately thought out.

July 1, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Comment Magazine
Film Comment Magazine

Documents a moment in a few very specific lives that anyone with a heart and mind can understand and recognise.

January 19, 2011 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

A multilayered portrait of immense physical, emotional and psychological change.

September 19, 2010 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

Some of the footage is harrowing, some of it moving, but all of it fearlessly real and affecting.

August 11, 2010 Full Review Source: Turner Classic Movies Online
Turner Classic Movies Online

This combination of amazing coincidences, sibling tensions and identity crises is a natural fit for the documentary form.

April 22, 2010 Full Review Source: Oregonian

An exceptional film...(that helps) illuminate the often painful experience of people trying to move on from dark personal and family pasts.

March 19, 2010 Full Review Source: Movie Dearest
Movie Dearest

Prodigal Sons is crazily overstuffed with material, but the material is so strong and so endlessly surprising I can't blame Reed for her reluctance to leave anything out.

March 19, 2010 Full Review Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul Pioneer Press

In an era of pop documentaries that reduce their subjects to gimmicky setups and patronizing lessons, Prodigal Sons is a near-profound palate cleanser.

March 17, 2010 Full Review Source: Projection Booth
Projection Booth

The past in Prodigal Sons is pervasive and formidable, to be sure, but it is hardly fixed.

March 11, 2010 Full Review Source: PopMatters

[An] engrossing, unpredictable, often heartbreaking family-drama documentary.

March 10, 2010 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

Compelling documentary featuring a remarkably appealing transsexual high-school star quarterback and her adopted, brain-damaged brother who learns he's the grandson of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth.

February 26, 2010 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

Audience Reviews for Prodigal Sons

It's pretty much everything it purports to be - the transexual transition, the Orson Welles connection, the sibling rivalry - no more, no less.
April 29, 2011

Super Reviewer

former captain of the football team returns to montana for his high school reunion. as a woman. that's not even the most surprising part of this searingly honest look at a most unusual family and how u really can't go home again... or perhaps u just can't ever leave there. kinda shocked no one has seen this yet so i don't wanna say too much. streaming on netflix.
September 15, 2010
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

"Prodigal Sons" is an emotional and personal documentary that despite its insight is actually a little hard to watch at times. In it, Kimberly Reed, a magazine editor living in New York City, is returning to Helena, Montana for her 20th high school reunion to see many of her old classmates for the first time since she transitioned from a man to a woman. For the most part, they are accepting, although there is a little confusion around the whole girlfriend thing.

The same cannot be said for her adopted brother Marc who she has not talked to in about ten years. The origins of this can be traced back to when Kim(then called Paul) was the center of attention and starting quarterback of the high school football team. Through a strange twist of fate, Marc finally gets the limelight. Sadly, this does not help with the healing of this long simmering family conflict, which is exacerbated by brain injuries and the resultant trauma Marc suffered in a car accident. Like Kim says with sad irony, there is psychological phrase for who she is but none for Marc's condition.
May 24, 2011
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

This documentary anticipated recording the reaction of Helena Montana to the return of the star high school quarterback - who is now a woman. Instead we have a very private glimpse into the relationship between that woman and her brain injured adopted brother. The brother discovers that he has very famous grandparents but that grand revelation cannot end his spiral downwards.
October 13, 2010
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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