Let’s compare the titular wildlife metaphors of this year’s two Sundance-tested, North Carolina—based dramas about plain-looking folks and their instinctual family bonds. I don’t remember what the junebug signifies, which might be that film’s point; it’s a small beetle that flies in late spring, modest and elusive. (It also achieves complete metamorphosis!) But a loggerhead turtle is a large, lumbering creature. The females lay their eggs in the sand, leave them behind, and years later, the offspring somehow return to the spot of their birth to lay their own eggs. Yes, this is a movie about adoption.
While Loggerheads lacks the relative polish of Junebug, it sensitively evokes red-state emotional crises, channeling Raymond Carver along with the Lifetime network. The film traces three deceptively disparate stories, staggered over 1999 to 2001, with Bush-Gore debates as background music. In Eden—wink-wink—a minister’s wife (Tess Harper, a standout) confronts her husband about their estrangement from their gay son. In Asheville, a Rental Car-o-lina agent (Bonnie Hunt) decides to search for the boy she gave up for adoption as a teenager. And an HIV-positive turtle enthusiast (Kip Pardue) ends up in—where else?—Kure Beach, seeking companionship, reptilian or otherwise. Connect the dots.
Tim Kirkman’s fact-inspired film is pitched squarely at the mom market, but the dilemma of how to confront the problems we bury in the backyard feels unexpectedly resonant. Loggerheads creeps along at, say, a turtle’s pace, which allows the adoption triad to peel away layers while keeping stereotypes at bay, doing minor-key, country-twinged justice to a potentially sensationalized topic.