Brooklyn Horror Film Festival Review: FAMILY (2018)

I want to start my review by stating that I decided to watch the next episode in the queue of The Haunting Of Hill House to give myself a little break from all the tension I was feeling after watching FAMILY.

Dear reader, this movie was a doozie. More than that, it’s a master class in capturing the nuances of family trauma and dysfunction. Heartbreaking, tender, and unflinchingly visceral, FAMILY is a movie I won’t soon forget.

Set in Israel, photographer Lily (played by its very own writer & director Veronica Kedar) emotionlessly knocks on the door to her therapist’s apartment and asks to be let in. She’s met by her therapist’s grungy, bleached-blonde daughter, Talika, who begrudgingly lets Lily in. Lily claims she owes her therapist an explanation for something that’s occurred, and it’s soon implied that her entire family is dead. Talika presses Lily to explain herself, and through a series of cutaway vignettes, we’re introduced to each of Lily’s family members one at a time.

First, we meet Lily’s cold, domineering, firearm-fanatic of a father who cares only about how people perceive him and little else. When Lily asks him for money to help keep her photography studio, we soon realize what an instinctively callous and vindictive person he is. Upon arriving home, he sets his gun down, and Lily suddenly asks him to show her how to use it. “If you’d gone into the army, you’d know.” He retorts. At first he hesitates, but then ultimately shows Lily how to point and shoot the gun. Gun cocked, Lily demands that he give her a blank check, and what happens next kicks off an astonishing chain of events.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the movie since it really is worth the watch. What I will say is that the care Kedar takes with this story is nothing short of wondrous. She deftly moves us in and out of the key moments of Lily’s life using stories within stories — ensnaring the viewer into the web of her simultaneously troubled past and present. No detail is too small, no memory too brutal for us to be challenged by — and FAMILY is an unapologetically challenging film. It’s both an earnest portrait and clear indictment of a family that’s decidedly anti-celluloid. In one of the most poignant moments of the film, Lily’s mother remarks of the families she sees on TV who go on vacations to Europe and eat meals together on the weekends, “It looks pretty to love out loud.”

There’s so much I want to say about FAMILY, which brought me to tears at multiple moments. What’s more, the lighting is absolute perfection, and Kedar makes long, unbreaking shots seem effortless. The film’s ending scene is hauntingly beautiful, leaving you with a perfect echo of what came before it. A must-see movie.

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