“The Hollars” debuted at this year’s Sundance as a strong independent film. This is a true ensemble piece, shot on a relatively low budget. It is a poignant heartfelt snapshot of a family going through a series of crises, most of which will be personally familiar to many audience members. The characters are well drawn, enough so that you become invested in them and feel their pain and joy. They deal with life’s curveballs, as we all do, in sometimes careless, sometimes sloppy and often brilliant ways.

John Krasinski, best known for his eight years on “The Office” as Jim Halpert is both star and director of “The Hollars.” This is only his second stint as a director. However he comes well prepared to that task. Although best known as an actor and voice actor, beginning with small roles on film and TV in 2000, Krasinski taught English in Costa Rica and then attended Brown University. He graduated as an honors playwright with a B.A. in English Lit. “The Hollars” has a somewhat biographical connection for Krasinski, whose mom is a nurse and dad is an internist — a hospital is an important location in the movie.

Sharlto Copley is “Ron Hollar”, John’s dysfunctional older brother. He perfectly portrays this earnest klutz who makes crazy bad choices and whose favorite strategy is escape. He may have picked up his knack for escapism from his Dad “Don Hollar”, played with big-hearted sincerity by Richard Jenkins. Randall Park of Fresh Off the Boat adds an earnest touch as “Dr. Fong”. Josh Groban is neatly cast as “Reverend Dan” and displays great comedic timing. Groban has worked as an actor since his recurring guest star on “Ally McBeal” in 2001. It has been hard for him to distance his acting persona from his strong identity as a religious singer. This role incorporates the religious side into the role with a knowing smile. Anna Kendrick has an adult role for a welcome change. Without extensive screen time Kendrick is able to represent a major force in the lives of this family. It’s Margo Martindale’s performance as “Sally Hollar” that steals the show. Martindale proves once again that she is a superb dramatic and comedic artist.

The action takes place in middle America – middle class that is, in a small town eight hours away from New York City by cab (you will see the source of this measurement in the movie). The exact location is not important – it represents any small town in the U.S. The film was actually shot in three different locations in Mississippi. The story is really about the struggles of the often forgotten American middle class. It restores hope in our humanity — that with all our flaws exposed, we are strong enough to prevail and find the beauty of life in the end.

Rated PG-13. 105 minutes.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her at kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews, see https://kwboole.wordpress.com.