In the Family
In the Family
Now Showing at: Esquire Theatre
Review by: Larry Thomas
Talk about pouring your heart and soul into a project. Patrick Wang, the writer, director, and star of his first project In The Family has done just that. Without giving away too much in the way of plot, In The Family concerns two gay men in a small town in Tennessee who are raising their six-year-old son. Things happen. Lives change. And the film makes you feel like a fly on the wall as an observer to the action.
So why was In The Family rejected by thirty film festivals before getting a slot in the Hawaii International Film Festival last year? Films of this quality are usually gobbled up by festivals, followed by equally anxious gobbling by distributors wanting to make a splash at Awards time. Wang came to the realization that, in order to get theatrical bookings, he was going to have to self-distribute. My only thought as to why that might have been necessary is that it’s only eleven minutes short of three hours, and I tell you that so there are no surprises, but there is not a wasted minute in the entire film: not in lovingly held shots that bring the characters to life; not in the prescient, efficient dialogue; not even, save for a few tunes by Chip Taylor, no music soundtrack. The background sounds are natural…traffic, a breeze, a bird, and other people. If I had to give you a brief cinematic comparison, I’d have to say the films of John Cassavetes.
The cast is ensemble perfect, most of whom you’ve never heard of. Park Overall from a couple of TV series has a good, important role as one of the men’s sisters. South African stage actor Brian Murray is outstanding as a retired attorney who becomes crucial to the plot. And in the past decades, I can count on one hand the number of naturalistic child actors who completely win you over, including Carey Guffey in Close Encounters, and Danny Lloyd in The Shining. You can now add six-year-old Sebastian Brodziak to that list.
The story of In The Family is told as if peeling away an onion, one layer at a time, with an occasional, brief flashback to bring you up to date on how things happened as they did. And unlike studio productions, which manipulate you toward a foregone conclusion, this is not the case here. It’s virtually impossible to second guess how all this will turn out until the final frame.
Oh, and earlier I mentioned that Patrick Wang has poured his heart and soul into this project, even to the point of self-distribution? This also extends to, in this all-digital age, making sure that theatres that want it in 35mm get it in 35mm. It had to cost him lots of money for a film of this length to have some 35mm prints struck, especially since it was not a big, mass-market film. In 2012, that is true love for one’s work and art.
And to the incredibly talented Patrick Wang, I’ll just say… you may never make another film as good as In The Family, but I have no doubt that you will continually keep trying…and I look forward to the next one, and the one after that.
The unrated In The Family opened on Friday at the Esquire Theatre, and it’s hard to tell how long it may be there. May I encourage you to go as soon as possible, and take along any film-loving friends you have. This is a truly magical film that will enthrall from beginning to end, and leave you wanting to say, “may I have some more please?”