Starring Veronica Kedar, Tommy Baremboem, Eli Danker, Evgenia Dodina, Hen Yanni, Aryeh Hasfari
Directed by Veronica Kedar
Reviewed out of Utopia 2017
The third feature film from writer/director/actress Veronica Kedar, Family is a dark psychological drama that follows a young woman, Lily, who goes to her therapist to confess to the crime of killing her family. Instead of meeting her therapist, she begins pouring forth her story to her daughter Talia (Baremboem), a young woman approximately the same age as Lily who suffers from her own host of problems.
Family is a film that plays out in parts, each family member getting their own dedicated time. We meet Lily’s father (Danker), a man who has basically lost all love of his children, using them only to impress those in his work environment. There’s the mother (Dodina), who is constantly high on drugs and trapped in an unhealthy battle with Lily’s sister, Smadar (Yanni), who herself suffers from severe mental illness, depression, and manipulative mannerisms. Lastly, there is Adam (Aryeh), the brother who has a rather unsavory relationship with Lily.
As previously mentioned, we get to join Lily, magnificently performed by writer/director Kedar, as she takes us through each of these relationships, showing us why they must die, either by her hand or through her actions. We see how dysfunctional this family is and wonder how they ever survived through the years. Physical and mental abuse runs rampant as no one takes blame for their actions nor does anyone seem to accept their role in the greater problem. This is a family content in misery because they know nothing else, as evidenced by a scene where Smadar manages to escape her room, runs to the front door, throws it open, and then stands there, tears in her eyes as she realizes that she has no place outside the walls of her home. Even Lily, who takes matters into her own hands, admits to Talia that she feels nothing during her actions. This is a defeated family, one that had no intention of ever finding happiness or even attempting to do so.
Beautifully shot by cinematographer Christian Huck, the film exudes the darkness and claustrophobia of this family’s interactions. We truly feel like they can never escape one another for even a moment’s respite, the design of the house constantly pressing them against one another. Add in Daphna Keenan’s absolutely gorgeous yet undeniably melancholic score and you’ve got a film that oozes dourness in a truly magnificent manner.
While the film is deserving in this praise, it ultimately feels like somewhat of a moot journey. Talia has her own problems with her therapist mother, problems that never seem to reach any real solution. Lily’s murder of her family seems to bring her no comfort, no solace. We, the audience, follow Lily and feel terrible for her but there is also sadness for her family, who are so fucked up in their own ways that we can’t simply write them off heartlessly. At the end of the day, there is no one to blame but each other. Lily may be alive but does she deserve life anymore than Smadar or her mother? For as callous as he is, did the father deserve his fate? And even Adam, for as obviously twisted as he might be, he recognizes and owns his faults, telling Lily that he loves her, even if he doesn’t always show it in the right way.
Family is an emotional and difficult 100 minute journey. While there is much to celebrate in this film, I have issues trying to figure out its ultimate purpose. This isn’t a case where I’m wrestling with my thoughts for hours, if not days. Rather, this is a situation where I look at the film as the credits are rolling and say, “Hmm… What was the point?”
Gorgeously filmed with absolutely stunning music, Veronica Kedar’s Family features exquisite performances but struggles to find a purpose in its story.
We the audience are left feeling almost as empty as this family’s relationship.