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Examining Conflicts and Redemption among Parents and Children


By Roger Costa


It is every mother’s dream: having all her children reunited at the nest. For any, and all occasions, mothers will always do their best to gather their adults, estranged children, hoping to experience family moments again. But there’s no perfect family in the world. Through the lenses of Niclas Larsson, making here his feature directorial debut after conceiving a few award-winning short films, the concept of human imperfection is revitalized by a surreal cinematic treatment. Larrson redefines the “dysfunctional family” genre exploring familiar terrain through imaginative and nail-biting commentary.

Inspired by the director’s personal experiences with  grief, it presents the tumultuous situation caused by a matriarch who refuses to leave the couch of an antique furniture store, only forcing all of her three, very distant, children to gather in order to rescue her. Fueled by top-notch and deliriously kinky performances by a prestigious ensemble cast, the director extracts perfect chemistry, creating an irresistible, charming, and relatable atmosphere.

The central characters are mother and David, the executive son who is the first to respond to the emergency. Played by Ellen Burstyn and Ewan McGregor, these actors do wonders with their roles, devouring every line, scene and emotion with precise synch and admirable sophistication. Burstyn is a harrowing force, intimidating, and aggressively scary; McGregor creates his “busy man, struggling with a divorce, and trying to figure out how to raise the children” role with impressive originality, escaping from elements so common in these types of characters. The always weirdly funny Rhys Ifans plays the gay brother, while iconic sex-symbol star Lara Flynn Boyle gives a glamorous sample of her “poison” as the mysterious, reckless oldest sister. Rounding up the cast, F. Murray Abraham as the store’s manager and Taylor Russell as the attendant add up some mystery and hilarious eccentricity.

The setting is a brilliant and surrealistic excuse for mother and children to “fix” their unresolved traumas and secrets, and the narrative efficiently delivers the subversive and complex material.

The result is a fabulous, marveously acted and executed, oddly funny and mend-bending dark comedy about the importance of family and how to deal with our differences.

With influences on Bunuel, Hawks and modern coming of age comedies, Larrson is a filmmaker to watch.

(Film Movement. Opens July 5 at Angelika Film Center, NYC. Actress Lara Flynn Boyle and Director Niclas Larrson will be in attendance for Q&A at select screenings.)


During the opening weekend events at Film at Lincoln Center, veteran French provocateur director Catherine Breillat was interviewed on stage by the always great Ira Sachs. In one of her revelations on filmming process, she spoke about her meticulous style of never rehearsing and never developing an immediate connection with the actors. “We talk before shooting, and we just wait for the magic to happen. The producers don’t always like the idea, but they end up satisfied with the result”, she said. “It is hard to get involved during the process of creation; the actors tend to dislike me at that point. But after the work, we become great friends”. Throughout her career, Breillat had examined topics of the feminine universe in confrontation with patriarchy and society. Influenced by her personal experiences and desires, her films delve deep into sexuality, identity, pleasure, raising questions, doubting morality and breaking standards. Her latest one, which premiered at last year’s Cannes, is no different. Once again she invites the audience to leave the comfort zone for a controversial, profoundly humane, complex and forbidden love story.

Things turn out of control and steamy when a rebellious 17-year-old teen moves in with his estranged father and stepmother; The initial feelings of jealously and competition becomes obsession and desire, as Theo (Samuel Kircher) seduces his father’s wife, Anne (Léa Drucker), a lawyer who serves as a child supporter. Observing the details of this unconventional, risky affair, and how it affects everyone around them, the director hits the target and gets under our skin with an absorbing feminist tale that challenges society and the system for a women’s right to behave accordingly to her will. The actors are suberb, and the fact she didn’t do any rehearsal, enhances the credibility for such original, passionate and raw performances.

A controversial, scandalously erotic, darkly humored and delicate study on desire, sexuality, human behavior and moral standards.

(Sideshow/Janus Films. Now Playing at Film at Lincoln Center)


Incredibly touching, fueled by a charismatic sense of tranquility and acceptance, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker’s directorial debut is one of the most sensitive films you’ll see this year. You can experience that throughout the entire film, which is set in 1991 rural Western Massachusetts, where a pre-teen girl and her mother will explore the dynamics of their mother-daughter relationship and expectations. As the young Lacy (Zoe Ziegler) observes the adults in moments of transitions and re-connections, she starts to identify herself and understand how to cooperate with her acupuncturist mother, Janet (Julianne Nicholson). Wonderfully acted with serenity and delicacy by an emotionally-charged cast, Baker announces herself as a thoughtful filmmaker, an auteur for the Alpha generation. Bravo!

(A24. Now Playing at Film at Lincoln Center)

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