Monday, February 19, 2007


Another film festival night. We saw Familia directed by Louise Archambault. Not a big crowd for a Saturday night, but it was a 9:30 show and I expect it may have been a bit late for some people. No, I'm not kidding.

The story revolves around Michele and her daughter Margot. Michele is a gambling addict who leaves her boyfriend and is then penniless and homeless. While hoping to start a new life in California with a friend who is her daughter's godmother, she starts by imposing on Janine, another friend (and family member by former marriage) whom she hasn't seen in over a year. Janine lives outside of Montreal in a upper middle class home. She buys Michele's sob story and agrees to let Michele and Margot stay the night. However, Michele becomes the guest that won't leave and she manoeuvres her way into Janine's life. This seems to be the only way Michele knows how to survive. Both women suffer and benefit from this arrangement. All of their lives are affected dramatically.

While the title suggests a larger theme about family, the film really focuses on mothers and daughters of different classes. We see three generations of two families and how those two families are intertwined through marriage even after divorce. The film does try to suggest almost every kind of familial combination and dysfunction. While a same sex marriage is not overtly depicted in the film, there is the suggestion of a same sex coupling between Michele and Janine. Michele and her daughter, Margot, are staying with Janine and her daughter, Gaby, (albeit somewhat unwelcome). There is an impromptu small family gathering where Michele and Janine suggest that they are the parented couple in this family because the "father figures" are absent and it really is a household trying to function while these two women work out their friendship/relationship to each other. In essence though the film is about single mothers.

The men in the film are quite pathetic really. I'm not sure if this is a problem with the film or an important point in the film. I'll have to give it more thought. The women in the film are no saints that's for sure, but they do drive the action of the story and as I said it is really their stories that are being told. Each one of them is being "screwed over" literally and figuratively by a man or boy. However once again the film isn't about this and the men are merely obstacles for the women. The film directs our attention to the inner conflicts of each of the women and how that shapes their inter-personal conflicts with each other. The mother/daughter bond forces these women to attempt to find resolution with each other.

By the end of the film we suppose Michele and Margot will have become closer while Janine and Gaby may be further apart than ever. However, the film doesn't suggest it will always be this way, but rather reveals that such a relationship is an on-going process that will always be re-negotiated as new problems arise and get resolved (or not).

What I did not like about the film was the repetition of anonymous faces flashing on the screen at the end. It seemed intrusive of the filmmaker breaking the narrative cohesion in a unproductive way. It added nothing to the film, but rather took away from the strong narrative ending. While D. did not care for the final image of the foetus that was a repetition of the opening image, I did like the final sequence, but not the music that went over it. Again, it took away from the cohesion of the narrative.

Familia is a film worth seeing. Here again is another Canadian film I recommend. Too bad we worry so much about Americans coming here to keep the industry alive instead of pushing harder to build our own stronger national cinema. We have the resources and talent why don't we have a thriving national cinema?


mister anchovy said...

Making films in Canada is a tough game, and making films in general requires huge investment dollars including the mega-hype machine. I'd like to think we have a domestic market to support it, but I wonder how many of your readers can list the last 5 Canadian films they have seen? Keep in mind that people are flocking to see movies like Ghost Rider.

sp said...

I'd like to know the answer to that question to. I'd also like to know how many cinemas make room for Canadian film? There's a problem when places like Silvercity receive distribution packages of American films that must be screened, but the same is not done for Canadian films.

Wandering Coyote said...

I just plain don't have access to these films here in the boonies. We're lucky to get anything we see advertised on TV. Perhaps geography is an issue, too, like it is for me.

Julia said...

Money, money, money. It really does boil down to that. We have the talent to make good, professional-quality films -- a ridiculous number of slick American films are shot in Canada with essentially Canadian crews. The difference is the American production has the money to hire stars, re-shoot a scene 30 times to get it right, and promote it to death. The Canadian production has 2 weeks to shoot and no promotional budget. It spends a week at the Carlton (sorry, I'm Toronto-centric), maybe a couple screenings at some festivals, and then it's gone. And then there's the general attitude toward Canadian films -- but that's a whole other post!