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FAMILIA(director/writer: Louise Archambault; cinematographer: André Turpin; editor: Sophie Leblond; music: Ramachandra Borcar; cast: Sylvie Moreau (Michèle), Macha Grenon (Janine), Mylène St-Sauveur (Marguerite), Juliette Gosselin (Gabrielle), Vincent Graton (Charles), Jacques L’Heureux (François), Micheline Lanctôt (Madeleine), Paul Savoie (Lucien), Emily Holmes (Kate), Xavier Morin-Lefort (Olivier), Norman Helms (Francis), Claude Despins (Scott), Hélène Florent (Chloé); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Luc Déry/Kim McCraw; Film Movement; 2005-Canada-in French & English with English subtitles)
“Tackles some heavy domestic issues for a sitcom film and does so incisively and intelligently.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Canadian writer-director Louise Archambault debut feature film tackles some heavy domestic issues for a sitcom film and does so incisively and intelligently. The ambitious film wanders off into intriguing but unanswerable questions, as it wonders aloud if bad value systems can be passed on from mother to daughter; during the course of the story the perceptive viewer can hear three generations of women say “we don’t choose our mom.” Ms. Archambault is also concerned with how difficult it is for people to connect with each other in this confusing techie orientated modern era of the Internet. Though fronting as a chick flick, it’s just as much a film about relationships and how we depend so much on others.

Michèle (Sylvie Moreau) is a divorced aerobics instructor in Montreal who lives with her rebellious 14-year-old daughter Marguerite (Mylène St-Sauveur). Her live-in boyfriend Scott, her boss at the health club, sells steroids on the side and gives her grief over her reckless gambling problem. Fed up with his controlling attitude, she splits with her daughter by car for California even though she’s broke and didn’t contact Marguerite’s godmother Chloé if it’s all right to crash with her. First there’s a stopover at her mom’s (Micheline Lanctôt) house to see if she can borrow some bread to make the trip. Turned down by mom, she gets a few bucks from her sleazy step-father (Jacques L’Heureux) who does so only because he wants to feel her up. This comes after the philosophy prof lectures his guests on the family being the foundation. Mother and daughter go uninvited to Michèle’s childhood friend and her ex-husband’s sister, Janine (Macha Grenon), and decide to stay when Chloé is reached by phone and is cold to having her crash. Janine lives in a comfortable middle-class suburban neighborhood, has a great job as an interior decorator, a hubby named Charles (Vincent Graton) who is never home (in the end will be seen as a shameless turd), and a reserved 13-year-old daughter Gabrielle (Juliette Gosselin) and an 8-year-old son. She’s an uptight bourgeois, who seems to have little in common with Michèle. Though reluctant to put her up, she does so because she doesn’t have the nerve to ask the homeless single mom to leave. The two women have trouble relating to each other, but the young girls hit it off and this leads to unforeseen dramatics for both moms that will change their lives (hopefully for the better). What comes through loud and clear, is that the emotional damage done to Michèle and Janine by bad upbringings and bad marriages is baggage that is passed onto their children.

The film plays on both moms having daughter who are opposites but learn to relate with each other, while the two moms are too far gone to find common ground. Now the question lingers if the two moms can make a positive connection with their disconnected daughters. It takes us through the dire consequences of a date rape, the low level a gambling addict would stoop to get money, the sneaky reading of a child’s diary to find out that your daughter calls you “Hitler,” the act of justifiable vengeance on an unfaithful hubby and it ends up having the California-bound mom and daughter stuck in a trashy trailer park as they see all their dreams crushed but hopefully can rebound when they come to realize that they still have each other in a world that can be cold and cruel if one doesn’t have a grip on things.

The acting was first-rate and the story, though melancholy, a bit too familiar for comfort and overcrowded with too many characters to fully appreciate, is nevertheless realistic, offers no easy Hollywood solutions and it never falls into dull TV soap opera territory.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”