HBO documentary 'Our Towns' visits 6 American cities and finds unity, not division

Hyperpartisanship, media rabbit holes and competing realities regarding everything from mask-wearing to structural racism form a knife edge — that we either navigate gracefully or use to impale ourselves.

In “Our Towns,” a gently optimistic documentary based on the magazine and book project by journalists James and Deborah Fallows, hot-button conflict and internecine arguments are left behind in favor of an examination of how communities are actually functioning throughout the United States — how neighbors are coming together to solve problems, how once-blighted cities are redefining themselves and how history continues to describe its pendular arc from crisis to solution and back again.

But, in some ways, that makes the film all the more potent a reminder that fundamental values still apply, no matter how dispiriting the circumstances: In the six towns profiled here, flexibility, compassion, accountability and creative personal expression win the day.

; Eastport, Maine, Charlestown W.Va. and Bend, Ore., “Our Towns” catches up with communities that are experiencing various degrees of downturn and revitalization.

As often as not, it means welcoming newcomers: Whether they’re from Brooklyn or Somalia, they can be counted on to inject energy and work ethic into a faltering economy.

Gracefully filmed by Ascher and Jordan, “Our Towns” keeps it simple and nonconfrontational: There’s very little grandstanding or self-important speechifying, although the Fallowses are full-throated in their support for such crucial institutions as libraries, community colleges and local newspapers.

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