FAMILIA(Louise Archambault). 102 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (July 28) at the Cumberland. For times, see page 107.
Earlier this year, Louise Archambault 's Familia was nominated for seven Genie Awards, including major ones for picture, director, screenplay and its two lead female actors. It was up against higher-profile flicks like C.R.A.Z.Y. and Water, but it belonged in that company and won the Claude Jutra Award for best film by a first-time director. Not many anglophones had seen or heard of it, except those lucky enough to catch it at last year's Toronto International Film Festival. Here's your chance.
Gambling addict Michele ( Sylvie Moreau ) and her daughter Marguerite ( Myléne St.-Sauveur ) are hoping to escape Montreal for California but need money, so they temporarily squat at Michele's former sister-in-law Janine's ( Macha Grenon ) suburban home, which they gradually turn upside down.
The script is subtle and smart in the way it points out people's capacity for denial. The male characters may be little more than props, but Archambault's women -- two sets of three generations -- are vividly drawn, and the director never tells us where our sympathies should lie.
The performances are uniformly good. Look for an early scene between Michele and her manipulative mother (played with brittle intensity by Quebec legend Micheline Lanctt ) to see how dysfunctional behaviour gets passed from one generation to the next.
Familia is disturbingly familiar.