×

Film Review: ‘Family Film’

Olmo Omerzu's intriguing second feature is a dry, droll, unexpectedly dog-driven dissection of a domestic crisis.

With:
Karel Roden, Vanda Hybnerova, Daniel Kadlec, Jenovefa Bokova, Eliska Krenkova, Martin Pechlat. (Czech dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3828058/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt

Fun and games for all the family take a mordant turn in “Family Film,” a story of parental negligence and youthful irresponsibility that young and old might prefer to watch in separate rooms. Irony-attuned audiences, however, will find plenty to enjoy in this elegant, darkly unpredictable fusion of ashen black comedy and urgent domestic drama, in which a standard home-alone setup degenerates into a tense worst-case scenario from every perspective — even that of the family border collie. The plucky pup’s own dramatic arc is the most beguiling of many curiosities in Slovenian director Olmo Omerzu’s perverse but poignant second feature, which should turn a number of unrelated heads on the festival circuit — among them, distributors with a taste for straight-faced eccentricity. Don’t hold your breath for a Disney remake.

Omerzu opens “Family Film” with footage — filtered through a backseat television screen — of amphibian mating rituals from a David Attenborough-style wildlife documentary, cluing viewers in to the pic’s own level of observational remove. Over the course of the film, children will be left to fend for themselves in the sleek urban forest, while their put-upon pet will face a more literal wilderness, with Lukas Milota’s flannel-toned camerawork maintaining the same degree of uninvolved, non-invasive scrutiny throughout. “Nature Film” would have been no less appropriate a title, given how Omerzu and Nebosja Pop-Tasic’s sharp, structurally daring  script probes coolly into more primal realms of animal behavior in man and beast alike.

At the outset, however, all would appear to be in order with the eponymous family, a well-off Czech brood with a roomy Prague apartment so tastefully appointed as to make Nancy Meyers’ decorator weep into her dust ruffle. We never learn what parents Igor (Karel Roden) and Irena (Vanda Hybnerova) do for a living; whatever the answer, it permits them to take off for several weeks on an expensive Indian Ocean sailing vacation, taking their beloved pooch Otto with them on the high seas. This dog may have his (holi)day, but the couple’s children aren’t so lucky: Conscientious highschooler Anna (Jenovefa Bokova) is charged with the care of her younger brother Erik (Daniel Kadlec), with Igor’s brother Martin (Martin Pechlat) checking in on them from time to time.

Igor and Irena make rather a show of their liberal parenting style — reclining semi-nude during their Skype calls home, for example — but their trust, as it turns out, is slightly misplaced. As Erik takes advantage of their absence to skip school for days on end, Anna opens the household to the seductively wayward influence of her best friend Kristina (ensemble livewire Eliska Krenkova), an uninhibited vamp-in-training who soon has the sexually naive lad, in particular, wrapped around her finger. Just as it seems that familial disaster may strike first in Prague, however, an unseen storm leaves the parents presumably lost at sea. Our only clue to their fate is their woebegone dog, who washes up alone on a deserted tropical shore.

From this point forward, none of the drama unfolds as one might expect. With one half of their core quartet rendered unceremoniously incommunicado, Omerzu and Pop-Tasic keep redirecting the narrative with drastic melodramatic turns, to a point of absurd excess. Yet the dry, academic distance from which the pic views the fallout lends peculiar credibility to these heightened circumstances; “Family Film” emerges as an exacting study of each member’s function (and dysfunction) in the family unit. That includes our intrepid border collie, with a surprising amount of screen time given over to Otto’s solo survival battle on a sodden, mangrove-laced beach. This veritable canine “Cast Away” saga will delight some viewers and bemuse others — but like all the film’s seemingly arbitrary digressions, held deceptively in check by Janka Vickova’s sly editing, it builds to a cutting punchline.

The cast complies perfectly with their helmer’s chosen register of deadpan reserve, with the trio of young actors doing particularly fine, anxious work in the film’s deliberately unmoored middle stretch. The lithe, striking Krenkova is something of a revelation, deftly playing both the preternatural poise and the try-hard childishness in Kristina’s bad-girl persona. For aficionados of four-legged thesping, meanwhile, a star is born in Flek, the dolefully expressive hound who carries so much of the film’s latter half on his shaggy shoulders.

Film Review: 'Family Film'

Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (New Directors), Sept. 21, 2015. Running time: 95 MIN. (Original title: "Rodinny film")

Production: (Czech Republic-Germany-Slovenia-France-Slovakia) A Endorfilm production in co-production with 42film, Ceska Televize, Arsmedia, Rouge International, Punkchart Films. (International sales: Cercamon, Dubai.) Produced by Jiri Konecny. Co-producers, Eike Goreczka, Christoph Kukula, Bostjan Ikovic, Nadia Turincev, Julie Gayet, Ivan Ostrochovsky.

Crew: Directed by Olmo Omerzu. Screenplay, Omerzu, Nebosja Pop-Tasic. Camera (color, widescreen), Lukas Milota; editor, Janka Vickova; sound, Johannes Doberenz; supervising sound editor, Florian Marquardt; production designer, Iva Nemcova; costume designer, Marjetka Kurner Kalous; line producer, Eva Kovarova; assistant director, Pavel Svaton; casting, Myroslava Hyzicova.

With: Karel Roden, Vanda Hybnerova, Daniel Kadlec, Jenovefa Bokova, Eliska Krenkova, Martin Pechlat. (Czech dialogue)

More Film

  • UGC Distribution Closes on Mariano Cohn’s

    Ventana Sur: UGC Distribution Closes Market Hit ‘4 x 4’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — UGC Distribution has beaten out all other suitors to clinch what had became by Friday morning the most anticipated deal of this year’s Ventana Sur market: All rights to France on Argentine Mariano Cohn’s “4 x 4,” sold by Latido Films and distributed throughout Argentina by Disney. After mounting speculation about which [...]

  • Aquaman 2018

    Film News Roundup: 'Aquaman' Hits $152 Million at International Box Office

    In today’s film news roundup, “Aquaman” has already grossed more than $150 million outside the U.S., Michael Masini joins “Birds of Prey,” and Freestyle buys the documentary “Shamanic Trekker.” BOX OFFICE More Reviews Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night' TV Review: 'Vanity Fair' Warner Bros.’ tentpole “Aquaman” has taken in $152 million overseas in 36 markets, [...]

  • 'Winter's Night' Review: Enigmatic, Offbeat Korean

    Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night'

    There are thousands of films about love’s beginning, and a great many about love’s end. But far fewer deal with a relationship’s late-middle: the spreading, sluggish delta of coupledom when decades of familiarity, if they have not bred contempt, at least threaten irritation. “Winter’s Night,” Jang Woo-jin’s playfully melancholic third feature, after the acclaimed “A [...]

  • Tomasz Kot UTA

    UTA Signs ‘Cold War’ Star Tomasz Kot (EXCLUSIVE)

    UTA has signed “Cold War” star Tomasz Kot. He has appeared in more than 30 films and 26 plays as well as dozens of television series. More Reviews Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night' TV Review: 'Vanity Fair' Most recently, Kot has received award-season buzz for his starring role as Wiktor in Pawel Pawlikowski’s feature “Cold [...]

  • Kenneth Branagh's 'All Is True' Opening

    Kenneth Branagh's 'All Is True' Opening Palm Springs Film Festival

    The 30th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival will open on Jan. 3 with historical drama “All Is True,” starring Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, and Ian McKellen. Branagh, who will be in attendance at the opening night screening, directed from Ben Elton’s script about the little-known period in the final years of William Shakespeare. Branagh [...]

  • Actor and Activist Rodney Kageyama Dies

    Actor and Activist Rodney Kageyama Dies at 77

    Actor, activist and influentials member of the Japanese American community, Rodney Kageyama, died in his sleep Dec. 9. He was 77. The SAG member was known for roles in “Karate Kid IV” with Hillary Swank, Ron Howard’s film “Gung Ho” and the spinoff sitcom, and the TV movie “Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes” with Max [...]

  • Most Popular Films 2018: The Best

    9 Holiday Gift Ideas Inspired by This Year's Most Popular Films

    From superheroes to super nannies, 2018 was a year full of memorable characters — and memorable movies. Whether you’re a big film buff, an avid follower of a popular franchise, or have a couple movie fans in your life, here are nine gifts that capture the fun of some of this year’s biggest films. 1. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content