Generally favorable reviews - based on 21 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 21
  2. Negative: 0 out of 21
  1. One reason Bright Leaves is McElwee's best film since "Sherman's March" is the richness of his reflections on this multifaceted material.
  2. Deeply personal, morally alert, and highly entertaining.
  3. Bright Leaves' takes on a sizable foe -- in this case, big tobacco -- but with such grace and wit that his message never seems medicinal.
  4. 75
    Not a documentary about anything in particular. That is its charm. It's a meandering visit by a curious man with a quiet sense of humor, who pokes here and there in his family history, and the history of tobacco.
  5. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Where most documentaries offer us facts to hold on to, his (McElwee's) are obsessed with the mystery of things we don't know and never will.
  6. 50
    Results in a weightless film. Worse still, McElwee's languid tone makes his journey lack conviction.
  7. While making his new film, he (McElwee) imagines that his boy is looking back at his screen image from some distant point in the future, when McElwee himself is gone. No child of a moviemaker could ask for a more beautiful bequest.
  8. By the end of this reflective, wise, often hilarious movie, you feel as though he (McElwee) has slapped a huge chunk of raw, palpitating life onto the screen.
  9. A brilliantly amusing couple of hours.
  10. 70
    Under his (McElwee's) watch, the possibilities of a documentary seem to expand by the minute, incorporating not only journalistic truths, but also personal insights and philosophy, unique regional textures, and unexposed pockets of humanity.
  11. Another of Charlotte native Ross McElwee's musings about his family, history (this time the tobacco industry) and life. It may be his best.
  12. Another of his (McElwee) beguiling "personal chronicle" movies.
  13. This might have come off as both self-indulgent and preachy if McElwee weren't so persuasively earnest. "Bright Leaves" becomes both a mystery and memoir in progress and though the filmmaker does not find the truth he is looking for, it was clearly a quest worth undertaking.
  14. 75
    In a season of hyperven tilating political docu mentaries - witness Michael Moore and his imitators - Ross McElwee shows just how far subtlety can go with his latest charming effort, Bright Leaves.
  15. It's a gently provocative film diary about tobacco and its mixed legacy.
  16. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    This rich, complex and surprisingly entertaining film also becomes a meditation on filmmaking and the parallels McElwee finds between cinema and, of all things, smoking.
  17. 80
    McElwee fans will welcome back the wonderful Charleen, his former teacher and lifelong friend, older and mellower but as beguiling and free-spirited as ever.
  18. Inevitably poignant but also often amusing and always deeply touching.
  19. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Witty, thoughtful and illuminating.
  20. We are hooked into a low-tech but compelling dynamic -- between relatively static images and McElwee's sensitive, connective narrative.
  21. Continuing the autobiographical torrent begun nearly 30 years ago, Bright Leaves is an utterly mundane miracle, a sampling of gentle insight and poetic retrospection quietly at odds with the exploitative culture around it.

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