By: Jenna Zine (Two Beers) –
Melancholy Martin (Jorge Becker) agrees to housesit for his distant cousin Bruno (Cristian Carvajal) and Bruno’s wife Consuelo (Blanca Lewin) while the family takes off to Paris for an extended trip. Soon the detached Martin finds himself enthralled with a local woman who makes him reconsider his hermit lifestyle.
This project by accomplished Chilean directors Alicia Scherson and Chistian Jimenez, with screenwriter Alejandro Zambra, is a quiet, reflective indie flick delight. The story revolves around Martin, a damaged 40-something man, who, despite being good-looking and capable, is not motivated to make much of his life. We learn through a bit of exposition that the crux of his malaise centers around a bad breakup, with a woman who he is not yet over, as well as the sudden death of his father. Adrift, he agrees to spend the summer at his cousin Bruno’s swanky but homey pad, even though both seem quite wary of each other. Also slightly unnerved by Martin’s presence is Bruno’s wife Consuelo, who finds herself musing about the near-stranger that is set to take over their home.
The film is slow to start, a pace that remains steady throughout the film. A fair amount of the narrative is focused on the dynamic between Bruno and Consuelo, an interesting vibe in itself, while also watching the three interact as Bruno’s family gets ready to leave for their trip. (Bubbling under the surface is the possibility of infidelity on Bruno’s part, as well as a troubling message Bruno and Consuelo’s young daughter, Sofi, has painted on her bedroom wall about hating her parents and Paris.)
There is chemistry between Consuelo and Martin – he even attempts to kiss her before she departs for the airport – but she rebuffs him, leaving Martin to his own devices as she quickly scurries off to join her family. It is once Bruno and co. leave that the full weight of what Martin has chosen dawns on him – the loneliness is almost deafening. To fill his hours, he wanders aimlessly around the two-story villa, poking through possessions, trying on clothes, listening to jazz, and chain-smoking. The only other thing he interacts with is the family cat, Mississippi, who, sensing his temporary owner’s disinterest, promptly goes missing.
Mississippi, you are harshing my vibe! [Photo Credit]
It’s the cat that finally propels Martin to leave the house and explore the neighborhood as he puts up “Missing” signs for the feline. Along the way he meets Pachi (Gabriela Arancibia) who is also flyering for her lost dog. (It is refreshing in this digital Tinder age to have a real life meet-cute.) Soon she is dropping by his house to check in on him, and shortly thereafter they are embarking on a passionate affair. (Pachi decides they will “fuck nine times” and then see if they want to renew “the contract.”) In the meantime, Pachi has questions about Martin’s life and the lie is born before Martin thinks twice: Yes, this is his house. Yes, he does have a child. And yes, he is divorced. The house, with all of its familial ephemera, has unwittingly set the stage perfectly. Whoops! But Martin, already enamored with Pachi and her young son, Seba, doesn’t see much cause to waver after presenting his fabricated “reality.”
There is so much hope for Martin – one thinks he has finally found happiness. All he has to do is come clean about the lie, hope that Pachi will understand, and move forward with the real life that’s just within his grasp. But can he beat the bitter beast of self-loathing? As the clock winds down on his housesitting gig (nicely illustrated by Bruno’s collection of hourglasses), Martin begins to fold in on himself. I kept thinking of the old adage, “If someone tells you who they are, believe them.” Martin sold Pachi (and ultimately himself) a fantasy – truly knowing Martin was never going to be a part of that.
Can you sense a love based on a lie? [Photo Credit]
Though Family Life is subtitled I found myself turning up the volume, enjoying the cascade of dialect and the well-chosen soundtrack. The plot poses the oft-asked “how well do we ever know the ones we love” question, leaving viewers to fill in the blank. It is a quiet film with a short run-time. It is lovely but, much like its protagonist, it could’ve been a little bit more.
Family Life (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Martin and Pachi make love. Spoiler – it’s more than 9!
Take a Drink: every time you want to tell Martin to snap out of it.
Take a Drink: every time you fantasize about living in that gorgeous home. Interesting side note – the flick was shot in director Alicia Scherson’s pad.
Do a Shot: for Bruno and Consuelo, who have to come home from Paris and clean up Martin’s mess!
Last Call: I would recommend watching this beautiful film to the very last haunting frame.