HOLLYWOOD – Imagine discovering a family you never knew existed. That's what happened to writer-director Alex Kurtzman, who based an emotional new drama, People Like Us, on his experience.
Sam is angry and reluctantly back home after learning his father has died. He's been estranged from the family for years. Now, his struggle with the flood of memories is complicated by the one thing bequeathed to him; a bag of money intended for a sister he never knew existed.
The sister is Frankie, a single mother who also grew up with resentment toward her father.
"My last image of my dad are tail lights while he drove away to his other family," the character says in the film.
It's not easy, but through their combined memories, brother and sister begin to shed their anger and understand what their father really did for them.
Co-writer Kurtzman makes his directing debut with People Like Us. Known for scripting action and sci-fi films, like the recent movie version of Star Trek, he based this drama on how he felt when he discovered his own father's second family.
"There was a lot of separating truth from fiction, and I would say there is a lot that is emotionally very autobiographical," Kurtzman says. "But, plot-wise, no."
Chris Pine, who stars as Sam, wondered whether audiences could connect with the story.
"I originally thought that maybe it is not all that relatable because who has got secret families?" Pine says. "Maybe it's a small percentage, but we come from fallible parents, who were kids once, who decided to have kids and had to learn how to be parents. In the learning process of becoming a parent and raising a kid, faults are made and damage is done. There is stuff we all have to deal with."
Elizabeth Banks co-stars as Frankie and finds it easy to understand the longing both characters share.
"We all want to know that our daddy loved us," Banks says. "At the end of this movie, we get an answer. I love that. I think it's why it is so cathartic for people who see the movie. I think we all have that insecurity."
In a movie season crammed with superhero action films, Kurtzman hopes there is room for his heartfelt story. "I really want to believe there is an audience that is starved for stories that are more about us and more about real life."
People Like Us was filmed on location in Los Angeles. The cast includes Michelle Pfeiffer as Sam's widowed mom and Olivia Wilde as his girlfriend trying to help him on this emotional journey.