The Movie Waffler Tribeca 2022 Review - FAMILY DINNER | The Movie Waffler

Tribeca 2022 Review - FAMILY DINNER

family dinner review
Hoping to lose weight, a teen spends a week with her sinister aunt.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Peter Hengl

Starring: Pia Hierzegger, Nina Katlein, Michael Pink, Alexander Sladek

family dinner poster

It might be best to watch Austrian writer/director Peter Hengl's Family Dinner on a full stomach, as there is some truly mouthwatering food on display. On the other hand, the role that food and dieting plays in the film may well ruin your appetite. This is a movie that doesn't shy away from showing you how the sausage is made, but it's difficult to figure out if Hengl's film is a plea to veganism or whether he's telling us to stop worrying and have dessert.

family dinner review

It's perhaps fitting that a movie about weight loss should have a somewhat confusing and contradictory message, as the world of dieting is filled with such perplexing contradictions. Some experts tell you to avoid meat while others say you should only eat meat. Some say regular exercise is essential while others say it can have an adverse affect. And then there are the similarly contradictory messages regarding health and obesity, with some saying you're putting yourself at risk by gaining weight while others claim a few extra layers of flab are a sign of good health.

No wonder the film's 15-year-old protagonist, Simi (Nina Katlein), is so tortured by her inability to shed those extra pounds. In a desperate attempt to lose weight, she spends Easter week with her aunt Claudia (Pia Hierzegger), a famous nutritionist who has published best-selling books and hosted TV shows on the subject. Claudia is initially irked by Simi's arrival, hinting that the teen will get in the way of her special plans for Easter Sunday. "Are you religious?" asks Simi. "Not in the traditional sense," is her aunt's reply.

family dinner review

Thus the stage is set for a folk-horror tale that reminds us that every important date on the Christian calendar was swiped from the pagans. Simi asks her aunt for help losing weight, and after initial reluctance, Claudia agrees. The youngster is shocked when she's told she can't touch a morsel of food before a special meal on Easter Sunday. Along with a constantly rumbling tummy, Simi has to contend with the creepy attentions of her aunt's fitness freak boyfriend Stefan (Michael Pink) and her bratty teenage cousin Filipp (Alexander Sladek), who is constantly trying to run away from home, claiming his mother has something terrible planned for him.

As the week goes on and we near Easter Sunday, it becomes perhaps a little too obvious where this is all going, but while the plotline may not be the most original, Hengl's film keeps us engrossed, or perhaps grossed, by the dynamic between his leads. Nothing is clear-cut here. Is Claudia really some sort of a witch or merely a harmless new age type using "the old ways" as a gimmick in her field of work? Is Stefan really lusting after Simi or is she misreading his attempts at friendliness? Is Filipp really in danger or is he just a boy with an over-active imagination?

family dinner review

Played with quiet brilliance by Katlein, Simi makes for an engaging lead, the sort of protagonist we just don’t see in horror movies. Final girls are typically outsiders who don’t fit the vacuous bimbo template of your typical horror movie victim, but they're always conventionally attractive. Simi is a final girl that will make a lot of young women feel finally seen, and her arc from a violet who wishes she could shrink to a cunning badass is as organic as the meals carefully prepared by the movie's nominal villain, Claudia. Go on, take a bite of Family Dinner.

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