Director: Louise Archambault
In this morbidly dysfunctional, depressing but painfully real Canadian work from director Louise Archambault, the idea of nature verses nurture is tested as we witness the female offspring of an extended family pass along traits and values while wondering if there is any escape from genetics or if we are destined to repeat the mistakes of the past. Michele, a gambling addicted aerobics instructor loses her job and man in one fell swoop and packs off her teenaged daughter Marguerite for an impromptu road trip, hoping to crash with relatives until finally finding a roof over their heads with a childhood friend. Unlike the similarly themed mother/daughter road trip film Tumbleweeds, wherein the flaws of the mother made her more realistic and endearing to our hearts, we really dislike our leading lady in Familia. Not only is she a bleak train wreck, bogging down her daughter and everyone with whom she comes into contact but her story gets more depressing yet predictable as it carries on. Although watching Michele drag down Marguerite in the process causes our hearts to go out to the younger girls in the film as they deal with the painful realities of partying and teenage life in contemporary society. However, there is a strong point in Familia, in the story of Janine, the childhood friend who grudgingly lets Michele and her daughter stay with them. Janine is as poised and controlling as Michele is freewheeling and oblivious—we find ourselves bonding with Janine as one of the few sane characters. A bored housewife whose only joy seems to come from her children and work as an interior designer, Janine finds her world turned upside down not only by the new arrivals but also with the realization that her frequently absent husband may have a steady extracurricular relationship of his own. Janine sets out to learn more and her quest is heartbreaking, true and keeps us glued to the film. The ending of the piece is a bit rushed with both the adult women and their daughters reaching a new phase in their lives and more time should be spent for it to better pay off—we’re not buying Michele’s change for a second but Janine’s seems natural and well-deserved. All in all, despite the flaws, worth taking a look at in order to gain an impression of what a cinematic dysfunctional family movie (currently the biggest trend in American cinema) looks like in the land to the north.