In “Family,” a fractious clan assembles in a forced attempt at recreating harmony, but their uneasy reunion instead fosters animosity, rancor, resentment and ugly truths. Distinguished by unfussy, classical direction, focused performances and subtle shaping of tone, this skillful stage play adaptation begins almost amusingly as its characters bicker and banter, then steadily gathers dramatic steam as it builds to a searing climax. A critical success in Holland, the polished production deserves festival play and should fit into television lineups wherever quality European drama is appreciated.
Anticipating the imminent death of his cancer-afflicted wife Els (Petra Laseur), family figurehead Jan (Bram van der Vlugt) summons his children and their partners for one last week together in a snowbound Austrian chalet. The group includes New Age therapist Bibi (Marisa van Eyle), her failed-writer husband (Bart Klever), Bibi’s immature brother Nico (Mark Reitman) and his nagging wife (Anneke Blok). As Bibi pushes her father to come clean about a long-ago affair, Nico airs accusations about his loveless childhood while Els chooses an inopportune moment to reveal startling news. The ensuing tragedy closes the tense drama on a powerful note.