54th Chicago Int’l Film Fest #2: “Family First” (Canada)

“Family First” (Canada)
Directed by Sophie DuPuis

MV5BZmQxNWI3MjAtMzYzYi00MzdkLWJmNjgtZDZjZmZlMzVhNDY2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTA1NDY3NzY@._V1_Sophie DuPuis’ challenging feature, “Family First” (Canada’s 2018 Foreign- Language Oscar entry) is a bit of a dichotomous mixed bag. While it possesses some indelible characters, you’ll recognize the well-trodden story-line from several recent films (“The Ardennes”, “São Jorge”, “Animal Kingdom”, and on and on). While individual scene work more often than not crackles with intensity and contradiction, the film’s second act moves at a molasses-laden pace. None of this disqualifies “Family” from being worthy of your time…just know that there are specific reasons you will or will not love this film.

On the plus side of the ledger are film’s performances, especially the two men playing the central figures of the two brothers. Jean-Simon Leducour successfully carries off the weight of our protagonist, elder brother and dreamer. And Maude Guerin’s work as the boy’s mother, is heartbreaking (and a little frustrating – script wise). But it is the work of Théodore Pellerin that will stay with you…for better or worse. As a loving hoodlum squarely placed somewhere on the Asperger’s spectrum, he is quite possibly the most annoying, aggravating and horrific non-horror-film character ever created. Seriouly. In fact, several people walked out of the screening because they’d had enough of his despicable nature. I found it mesmerizing…for a time.

Which leads to that other side of the ledger…the interminable and repetitious second act. Not sure what Ms. DuPuis was shooting for, but the intensity within that act “starts at 11 and then goes to a 15” (to quote Matt Damon as Brett Kavanaugh). More than a couple times I said to myself, we get it, let’s get on with it. If you can fill that space with scene work that reveals more about the characters or their situation, then fine…but to rehash scenes…or worse…keep the movement of the film horizontal while blasting us in the face with a character of Vincent’s hurricane-like mood swings and extremely uncomfortable actions, is, well, almost as reprehensible as Vincent.

If not for a terrific final ten minutes, I’d have no choice but to give Ye Olde Thumbs Downe to the flick. But, it just skates by because of the performances and the ending.

But just…

(no subtitled trailer available yet)

Written on 10/18/18

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