Family Assessment and Intervention


FamilyAssessment and Intervention

TheDescendants,is a comedy that involves a man who is a native islander by the nameMatt King acted out by George Clooney. Matt King is a family man andlives with his family in Hawaii. His life suddenly changes when hiswife is involved in a tragic accident that leaves her in a coma. Hefaces a lot of challenges as he tries to keep his family together andcope with life as it changes. He also faces pressure from relativesto sell the family’s immense fortunes in land trusts. However, hetries to be a good father to his two daughters and tries to cope withhis wife’s possible death (Payne, 2011).

Fromthe movie, Matt King is a lawyer based in Honolulu. He is a trusteewho is solely in control of the family trust of 25,000 acres ofpristine land in the island of Kauai. He and the family decide tosell the land to a developer, Don Holitzer, because the trust is dueto expire in seven years. When they are about to make the decisionand finalize on the details to sell the land, his wife Elizabeth getsinto a fatal boating accident near Waikiki and she falls into a coma.

Elizabethis the wife to Matt and she is a mother of two daughters, 10 year oldScottie and 17 year old Alex. She is closest to the kids and as thereader comes to notice, not so good at her motherly role.

Matton the other hand, is also not very involved in the girl’s lives ashe refers to himself as the background parent. He is now faced withthe responsibility of looking after his kids and learning to be aparent since his wife is not doing so well in hospital. He soonlearns that she will never awaken from her coma. The shocking newsthat she will never wake up comes as a great surprise to all. She issoon to be disconnected from the life support machine. Matt decidesto break the news to his oldest daughter Alex and tries to spare theyounger one. Alex is conflicted with all the information she has todeal with at the time of the accident. She feels that her family isdysfunctional and behaves in reckless ways. She breaks the news toher father that her mother was having an affair at the time of theaccident. This is an indication that there is free communication amidthe father and the oldest daughter.

Mattbecomes very angered by that fact and he ends up confronting two ofhis friends, Mark and Kai. He finds that the affair was true and thatthe lover is a realtor who would stand to benefit if the King’sfamily was to go ahead with the deal of selling the family fortune.He becomes enraged by that fact because he cannot get over the anger.He feels so angry and decides to take time to tell Brian, the lover,that Elizabeth will soon die, so as to give him a chance to say hislast goodbye. He breaks the news to his own family and then takes thegirls on a trip to Kauai to find Brian. Alex decides to bring along amale friend who her father is not very excited about.

Kingdecides to go jogging on the beach and by coincidence he sees Brian.Without saying anything he trails him back to a cottage owned by hiscousin. He decides to go in and introduce himself as Elizabeth’shusband and gives his reasons for being there and says that she wasgoing to pass away in a few days (Payne, 2011). He wanted to give hima chance to say goodbye. However, Brian declares that he was not inlove with her and it was just a fling to him. He apologizes to Mattand says that he loves his family.

Evenwith what he is going through, Matt’s cousins ask him to meet up todecide the fate of the family lands. They take a vote and most voteto sell it off, but Matt has last thoughts and decides not to gothrough with the deal. This comes as a shock to all of them and thismakes him to become threatened by his cousins, where they threaten totake legal action against him. However, he is not deterred in hisdecision. This is an indication that Matt uses critical thinking inmaking his resolutions.

Atthe hospital, his wife gets taken off the life support machine andshe dies. Elizabeth’s father visits them at the hospital and blameshim for not being a good husband to his daughter, which shows thatthe Elizabeth’s father resolves his conflict by putting blame onothers. Matt chooses not to tell the dad about her unfaithful ways.He agrees with him so as not to taint the image of his dead wife. Atthis point he starts to accept the fact that she cheated on him andhe somehow develops a sense of calm. The children also say theirfinal goodbyes. He comes to terms with her betrayal, kisses her andtells her goodbye (Payne, 2011). They later scatter her ashes inWaikiki and the film ends with him and his daughters on the couchwatching March of the Penguins while eating ice cream covered inElizabeth’s hospital blanket. This is a representation of thefamily coming together.


Thelife of Matt is an interesting one before everything happens to him.Some might say that it is even boring to some extent. It comes off asvery normal. Living in Hawaii, a place where people go to have funand enjoy themselves, in comparison his life is not as exciting. Fora person living here, the reader expects him to be living a veryvibrant life. In this regard, he seems to be just a lawyer who isgoing through life.

Itis the fact that he is the sole trustee who his family wants involvedin the selling of the land. They look to him in taking their side inselling the land to make sure they benefit from the sale. He is atfirst convinced in the deal and even makes plans of after sale whenhe decides that he will live solely from the proceeds of the sale(Hemmings, 2008). It is the easiest thing for the family to dobecause the trust expires in seven years. At this point, he decideslike any other normal person would, if faced with the same decision.He plans and creates out for himself how he is going to live.

Whenthe news about his wife gets to him, everything changes. At thispoint nothing anymore matters he is confused about what he is goingto do next. All his plans now come to a standstill and he is nowfaced with the responsibility of raising a family, something that hewas not directly involved with. He is now to take care of hisdaughters and be directly involved in parenting. Taking care of hischildren is something very new to him and he finds it challenging. Hegets to know what being a parent really is and he has to forget abouthimself and place his children’s needs before everything else. Thisshows how close he is to his immediate family.

AsMatt tries to adjust to dealing with his teenage daughter, he gets tolearn that his wife was cheating on him with someone else. By thistime, he gets the revelation that he used to live in his own worldone that did not require him to be a parent or a husband (Hemmings,2008). Even though he is shocked at this reality, he seems shockedmore by the fact that all this was happening under his house. It canbe argued that this was happening not because he did not loveenough, it is because he took everything for granted. His wife as oneof her friends explains that she went outside their marriage becauseshe wanted to feel loved, accepted and most of all appreciated.

Theaffair has him thinking of his life and what he had been doing allalong if he did not associate with his children and failed torecognize that his wife was cheating on him. He raises an issue infamily life, where communication is lacking and this affects all inthe family (Hemmings, 2008). As the dad goes about providing for thefamily, he neglects the needs of his wife and children. It is notthat he does not love then but his ignorance causes more harm thangood. This happens every day in normal life when people are morepreoccupied with their jobs and fail to appreciate the family or thepartner that they have. Instead of talking about it, most seek whatthey lack in their families elsewhere. Talking or airing once viewsto save the family is sometimes not an option because getting facetime is hard. Giving up and looking for a better option elsewhereseems to be the easier choice for people placed in that position.

Oneof the issues is well depicted in the scenario, where Matt confrontshis friends to get to learn the truth. Here, confrontation isdepicted as what individuals do in searching for truth. Matt feelsthat it is his right to be told what his wife was doing behind hisback. He almost demands to know the truth as he believes that it wasunfair to him. Another issue is that conscience judges a person. Matt is filled with anger but he knows deep inside that it was partlyhis fault. So instead of looking forward to beat up Brian he losesfor him so as to ask him to come and pay his respects. Another issueconcerns the complexity of family life. Family life gets welldepicted in this scene when Brian declared that to him therelationship was just a fling. Brian clearly values his family sincehe says he loves them. On the other hand, his love is questionablebecause coming to think about it he would not have cheated on them ifhe did. It comes off as a great excuse to get out of the predicamentof visiting Elizabeth in hospital.

Itgets more complicated when Matt’s family does not giveconsideration for his state of mind when they pressure him intomaking the deal. It shows that they do not value him as part of thefamily and are only interested in the proceeds of the sale. They givethe reason that the land stands to benefit from development, but allthey care about are their shares from the sale. This is a bad gesturefrom the family because even with all the threats they still end uplosing.

Thesituation is a clear example of how money and earthly pleasures deterindividuals from behaving in a humane way. The family seems to beindifferent of the fact that Matt’s wife is about to die. It is notin their best of place to ask him to take the deal. It is actually away to pressure him in a scène of the word. They would have reliedon the fact that he is unstable for him to make the decision. Theymight have hoped that the situation he was going through would blindhim to the point of making the deal.

Theending is a great motivator in life as it was in the best decision ofMatt he decides to forgive his wife, which was a gesture that wastruly a hard one to make. He did it for the children because he cameto understood that they needed him the most now that their mother wasno longer in their lives. He resolved to be a good father one thatwas aware of what was happening around him. He started to connect tohis oldest daughter and this develops and grows to a beautiful fatherdaughter relationship. It is a great way to view life that even whenall hope seems lost and nothing is going as planned, one can alwayshope in the fact that there is always light at the end of the tunnelif one chooses to do the correct thing. He is faced with thechallenge of being both a mother and a father to his children. Itshows how much the responsibility of being a parent changes once lifefor the better. He is now aware of their needs and wants, and he cannow relate to them with care and with the knowledge of who they areas individuals.

Thefilm highlights all the wrongs that one can possibly go through whenit comes to facing the death of a family member. It brings to lightwhat everyone in the family goes through when dealing with loss. Italso points out that family unity is very important even when facedwith other great decisions to make. It emphasizes the need ofparental participation in the lives of the children and how the lackof such might lead them to seek to satisfy that need through othermeans. Most of all it teaches the reader the importance of family.The relations in everyday living might cause one to detach from thenormal family relations, but it is most important to who one worksfor and who one works forward to provide for. It is all meaninglessif one does not take time to love and appreciate family life (Larner,2003).

Asa Child Youth Care Practitioner, I would suggest showing care andlove towards the kids, which emerges as an important ingredient forthe proper growth and development of the children. The love that Mattshows to his daughters upon the death of their mother is so importantand highly encouraged. Proper care should be shown to kids when theyare faced with trauma (Yuen, 2007). Furthermore, provision ofcounseling is a critical aspect so as to help them develop positivityin life (Ungar, 2011).


Hemmings,K. H. (2008). Thedescendants: A novel.London: Jonathan Cape.

Payne,A. (2011). TheDescendants Movie.

Ungar,M. (2011). Counselingin challenging contexts: Working with individuals and families acrossclinical and community settings.Belmont, CA:Brooks/ Cole.

Yuen,A. (2007). Discovering children`s response to trauma: Aresponse-based narrative practice. TheInternational Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work,4, 3-18.

Larner,G. (2003). Integratingfamily therapy in child and adolescent mental health practice: Anethic of hospitality.ANZJFT, 24, 211-213.