Review: The Family
- Fabien Gorgeart delivers a remarkable, lively, moving, sensitive and highly accurate melodrama on filial feelings and our complex views over what makes a child happy
"He’s going to need help understanding that he’ll have a real place from hereon in." For a six-year-old boy, a clear parental referent and a loving home are as essential as the simple desire to have fun or even bicker with one’s siblings. But for Simon, the touching little man playing the lead in Fabien Gorgeart’s exciting work The Family - which was screened at the 13th Les Arcs Film Festival ahead of its release in France (happening on 16 February via Le Pacte) and which has already scooped a raft of awards (including the Jury Prize and the Valois for Best Actress at the Angoulême French-Language Film Festival, as well as the Bayard for Best Acting Performance in Namur) following various premières on the festival circuit - such emotional equations are far more complicated than usual to calculate. Because, when the past resurfaces, you have to know how to chase ghosts away and agree on a common truth in order to find a healthy way forwards, and it’s the adults who are responsible for this. But the emotions of the latter are no easier to define or to control than those of the children’s they’re looking after, given how abundant but also how hard to channel, their love and good intentions are.
The existence led by Anna (Mélanie Thierry) and Driss’s (Lyes Salem) little family is nonetheless a joyous one. They live on a housing estate where their three young children - Adrien (Idriss Laurentin-Khelifi), Jules (Basile Violette) and our newest addition Simon (Gabriel Pavie), who’s pampered and wrapped in cotton wool by his mother - cavort and frolic like fish in water. But in a Children’s Welfare office, the curtain is about to come down on this artificial paradise: "Eddy (Félix Moati) has written to the judge to inform him he wants his son to come home and live with him." In fact, Simon (who is fully aware of his situation, in so far as his young age and its emotional limitations allow him to understand the legal obligations and procedures adults are forced to comply with) was placed with Anna and Driss when he was 18 months old, following his mother’s death and the spiralling depression of his father who now seems, more or less, to be back on his feet. An access order is subsequently granted for his father to take him out for the day and to have him stay with him on weekends and during holidays. But it come as a hard blow for Anna, in spite of her professionalism and willingness to respect the rules and the process involved. Between her deep love for this endearing child who calls her "mum", her profound doubts over what would be best for Simon and the imbalance this announcement of a possible future separation causes within the family, the young woman starts to waver…
Exploring the grey zone between attachment and the filial bond with great finesse, Fabien Gorgeart (who also wrote the screenplay) crafts a remarkable, sensitive, humanist and straightforwardly empathic melodrama (with the help of talented director of photography Julien Hirsch), which oscillates, in ideal fashion, between light-heartedness and gravity, slowly edging towards thriller territory and allowing all of the characters their very own place in the compelling mosaic of this extended family. The entire cast is perfect, with a very special mention clearly going to Mélanie Thierry whose subtle expressiveness comes through throughout the film, and whose composure slowly begins to crack in the poignant mirror of total love, grappling with the full knowledge "that there’s not just one way of getting things right".
(Translated from French)
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