During a quest for freedom, one man finds himself creating a narrative entirely out of his control while navigating the toll that trauma can have on a family unit. That’s the story of American Fiction, the buzzy film that is garnering a lot of awards attention as we head into the holiday season.

“Monk is a guy trying to be free, intellectually, creatively and coming up against one challenge after another that’s trying to prevent that,” star Jeffrey Wright told Blavity’s Shadow and Act ahead of the film’s limited release“Challenges on a professional level. On a personal level from his family, and he’s doing the best he can.”

As an author, Monk finds himself frustrated with storytelling in the literary space. Before he knows it, his plan to showcase what he believes is the problem with the current state of literature surprisingly leads him to the accolades and notoriety that he has seemingly longed for as a writer.

“Over the course of the film, Monk realizes how this sort of self-alienation he’s caused has hurt his life and really, I think that Monk’s journey is one of finding his way back to human beings. Back to his family. Back to romantic partners. Back to just other human beings,” said writer and director Cord Jefferson. “This is a guy who I think is frustrated for many reasons and one of the reasons is because he’s lonely. He feels that he is without any support in this world. But, I think by the end, Monk realizes that one of the reasons he’s lonely is because he’s been so isolating.”

As the story progresses, viewers see Monk learn to take away the false narratives he’s created all around him, especially within his family dynamics and specifically with his brother, Cliff (Sterling K. Brown), who has learned to live in his truth.

“Cliff is coloring outside of the lines,” Brown told us. “For someone who, for the majority of their life, felt they had to play things in a very particular way, by societal rules and whatnot, he’s finally reached a place in his life where societal rules no longer work for him because they are contrary to his authentic truth. So, until he finds what his new equilibrium is, he has to sort of be a little messy before he can find what neatness looks like now.”

Amid his quest for freedom, Wright is also opening himself up to love with Coraline (Erika Alexander).

“She’s already free because she’s entertaining the fact that this could possibly be something, and after divorce, it’s not the easiest thing to do,” Alexander explained. “But, she’s willing to risk some of that with Monk because she likes his books. He thought his books weren’t impressing anybody, but they impressed her. She read those books before she met him.”

Moreover, while freedom is a central theme of American Fiction, the film also reiterates we don’t get to choose the family we’re born into.

“I don’t think there’s a person in America that’s not in some kind of dysfunctional thing,” Alexander continued. “America is its own dysfunctional family, so the beautiful part is that you come here, and we say, ‘Out of many, one,’ but how much are we getting along with our family? Do we see other people and have empathy? Can they have empathy for us and not see us as villains because we’ve been played that way or through stereotypes?”

She added, “We’ve got to ask ourselves, as we make up this great experiment, how limiting our connection is with each other, and let’s expand it, and let’s make sure that it’s organic, and it’s feeding and nurturing each other, and that’s hard. Monk’s dysfunctional family is full of all sorts of beautiful, functional things. You can see the different skin colors, Sterling’s compared to Jeffrey’s. You can see that they were all accomplished in some way; the parents had gotten them there, but they are also hiding some real, hard traumas and still trying to function. It was functional that they were trying to move past those traumas without any guidance. Even though they were dysfunctional, they are a very functional and very ordinary American family.”

American Fiction premiered in select theaters on Dec. 15, which will be followed by an expanded release nationwide on Dec. 22.