Un Air de Famille Review
By Bradley Null
There are exactly three moments in this movie that are really worth watching, and one of them comes when a fashionable woman's choker is mistaken for a dog collar (an obvious joke I know, but always funny). The other two moments are the only two times that this relentless work of realism even begins to approach optimism.
Un Air de Famille, or Family Resemblances by its English title, is your typical under-drama from the French cinema. It is a single setting observation of the interactions of an estranged family at the weekly family dinner, when tensions begin to run high. I would mention the performances here, but they all kind of run into one melancholy melange, ultimately resulting in very striking resemblances between the characters, at least insofar as my opinion of them.
Getting back to my opening point, the basic problem with this movie is that it is quite simply depressing. And isn't life too short to be getting so depressed all the time. Maybe some people can view this type of film as an instructional feature helping us realize what not to do with our lives. Or maybe some get a kick out of realizing that their lives aren't that bad. Or maybe some really have lives as bad as these and use the experience to feel like they're not alone. In my opinion though, the point of realist cinema is to display the apparently mundane and find something magical in it, which Un Air de Famille does only twice. Once, about two-thirds of the way through the film, when one of the characters, Yoyo, celebrating her birthday is swept off her feet on the dance floor. And the second time, in the last scene of the movie when it is revealed that not every event of the evening was a wash, and something good may come.
But in the end, it is too little, too late. You can talk about the well-written script, the nuances, etc. But if we want to analyze the average family, we can go home for the holidays. The real power of realist drama comes out when it shows us how something extraordinary can blossom from the ordinary. Un Air de Famille hints at this magic in its last three minutes, but the first 100 were a pain to sit through for the small payoff.
Aka Family Resemblances.
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