The Movie Waffler Tribeca Film Festival 2024 Review - FAMILY THERAPY | The Movie Waffler

Tribeca Film Festival 2024 Review - FAMILY THERAPY

Family Therapy review
A wealthy family's cloistered existence is disrupted by the arrival of the patriarch's estranged son.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Sonja Prosenc

Starring: Mila Bezjak, Aliocha Schneider, Marko Mandić, Katarina Stegnar, Judita Franković Brdar, Jure Henigman

Family Therapy poster

This Slovenian entry into the overcrowded canon of satirical European comedies centred on soulless rich folk resembles the sort of movie you might get if you prompted a sophisticated AI programme to deliver on demand a cross between Ruben Ostlund and Yorgos Lanthimos. Playing out in a literal glass house that becomes a goldfish bowl, the film has the pristine look we expect of such cold examinations of dehumanisation, and it features committed performances, but it's never as amusing as its Scandinavian and Greek Weird Wave cousins.

Family Therapy review

The movie opens with its cleverest touch, a gag involving a character walking against the path of an airport escalator. The character in question is wealthy patriarch Aleksander (Marko Mandic), and the visual pun suggests he's accustomed to the world giving way to his needs. The non-compliant escalator is but the first obstacle he'll be forced to contend with over the following two hours. The next comes in the form of Julien (Aliocha Schneider), a 25-year-old foreigner Aleksander has only recently discovered is his son from a past relationship. Aleksander has invited his newly discovered offspring to spend time with his family, much to the chagrin of his stern wife Olivia (Katarina Stegnar) and their sullen teenage daughter Agata (Mila Bezjak). Aleksander's true motivation for inviting Julien is to enter a contest for the "perfect family" to win a trip to space.

Family Therapy review

The ensuing dramedy falls somewhere between Pasolini's Teorema and Paul Mazursky's '80s Renoir reworking Down and Out in Beverly Hills, as Julien embodies a hybrid of the intruders played by Terence Stamp and Nick Nolte in those films. His presence grows increasingly divisive, driving a rift between Alexsander and the women members of his family, both of whom grapple with their attraction to the handsome young interloper. Julien forces the family to confront their snobbishness when he allows a working class family whose car broke down into the cloistered home. Watching Alexsander and his sheltered brood struggle to conceal their classist contempt for these strangers sets up the film's most amusing dynamic, but the family exits the narrative before their comic potential is fully exploited.

Family Therapy review

A series of comic vignettes play out as Alexsander's family give in to their primal instincts in the presence of Julien. Literal cracks begin to appear in the glass windows of the luxurious home, which is slowly invaded by a series of animals from the nearby woods. The visual metaphors range from subtly perceptive to thuddingly obvious. Mandic is a standout as the well-groomed middle class man who regresses to a feral state by the end of the film, but we've seen this character so many times at this point that the archetype fails to hold our interest. Writer/director Sonja Prosenc has fashioned a social satire that is superficially effective in getting its not so novel ideas across, but Family Therapy is ironically as soulless as the elitists at its centre.

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