Family Life

Family Life poster

Family Life movie poster

Co-written by acclaimed Chilean novelist/poet Alejandro Zambra (Bonsái, The New Yorker) and marking the first directorial collaboration between Alicia Scherson (Turistas) and Cristián Jiménez (Bonsái) , Family Life (Vida de Familia) is a touching drama about a man trying to build a life in somebody else’s house.

Leaving for France for a few months, Bruno (Cristian Carvajal) and Consuelo (Blanca Lewin – En La Cama) ask a distant cousin (Martin – Jorge Becker), to housesit and take care of their cat Mississippi while they’re gone. Despite vaguely knowing the reputation of the aimless 40-year old man, they decide to trust him but unsurprisingly, he starts going through their things, pees in the plants, moves stuff around and loses the cat. Upon looking for Mississippi, he meets Pachi (Gabriela Arancibia), a single mother, and soon enough she and her son end up staying with him, becoming a new family.

Chances are you know people like Martin – I sure do – and with such a setting, there are certainly plenty of opportunities for comedy, which is what I was expecting. What I discovered was however a simple but surprisingly moving work about a doomed, lonely soul who has no boundaries.  Like a lot of hapless 40-year olds, Martin is a rebellious teenager trapped in a middle-aged man. He wears a leather jacket and sunglasses, listens to music loud, smokes cigarettes and doesn’t care about anything.  Everything has been meticulously placed in the quite sophisticated townhouse, including books and a music keyboard, allowing Martin to live a hedonistic Bohemian lifestyle for months.  Under the surface, he however seems to look for the normality of a family life but isn’t able to assume his responsibilities.

While I’m not familiar with Mr. Zambra’s novels, I’m not surprised he has contributed to the New Yorker as Family Life is written in a highly enjoyable candid and witty style. As for the filmmakers, they almost turn us into voyeurs, making us witness Martin’s nonchalance without holding back, whether he’s walking around naked or having sex – at times it almost made me feel like I was watching a French film. They also excel at revealing characters’ emotions, even if we only see them for a few moments as it’s the case for Bruno and Consuelo. They also add light doses or humor and poetic tones but the movie’s main strength is undoubtedly its capacity at making Martin a flawed likeable figure, his freedom making him shamelessly attractive to both Consuelo and the audience.

Director: Cristián Jiménez, Alicia Scherson – Actors: Jorge Becker, Gabriela Arancibia – Running Time: 1:20 – Year: 2017 – Country: Chile
Click here to watch the Family Life trailer
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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.