Friday, October 10, 2014

Milwaukee Film Fest 2014: Family United

Ah, weddings. Is there any other event where the reality is so consistently different from the shiny, Perfect Day shoved down our throats by powerful propaganda machines? Hmm. Maybe birth. Or childhood. Or rather, anything to do with kids and family in general.

That said, the buildup to the wedding in “Family United” starts sweetly enough. We are introduced to the happy couple as adorable little ten-year-old moppets. Efraín, the catalyst for all the chaos and disorder to come, explains how he is the youngest of five brothers, and how life has disappointed his father (Héctor Colomé). Apparently, Dad's (Héctor Colomé) favorite movie was “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers,” and believed his life was destined to resemble it. He dreamed of having seven sons and a lifetime of happiness with his wife and one true love. But he only got five, as his wife left after Efraín was born.

After Efraín recounts all this, he proposes to a girl in his class, Carla, so they can fufill his father's dream. She accepts, and quicker then you can say, “Aww,” the movie flashes forward eight years, where we learn that Efraín (Patrick Criado) is indeed marrying the now very pregnant Carla (Arancha Martí). Few are pleased about him marrying so young, and even fewer are actually happy to actually be at the wedding, seeing as how it's not only the same day as the 2010 World Cup, but their own country, Spain, is one of the finalists.

But while Efraín is confident about his decision, there are a few unsettling omens thrown his way, from a plank of wood that crashes through their van's window to a black cat at an otherwise charming ceremony where guests dance down the aisle to “Feel So Close.” But the party comes to a screeching halt when Colomé's heart fails, and he is left in a delicate, uncertain condition.

But as people are forced to learn time and again, when you plan on your life resembling a set picture, or rather a particular fiction, life is bound to fall short of your expectations. Real life tends to complicated; bad things happen for no reason, and there is nothing to do but adapt. So while the wedding is in limbo, the fault lines in everyone's lives are revealed. One brother is dating the ex of another, who has learned a shocking secret from his family and isolated himself from them. Another wants to get in the family safe and “borrow” money.

Then there's the would-be bride and groom themselves, or more to the point, Carla's twin sister Monica (Sandra Martín), who begins to form more of a connection with Efraín. Turns out, even Efraín's adorable proposal is more complicated than it initially appears, since apparently both sisters have been such a huge part of his life that he can't imagine it without both of them in it. Having a guy in the middle of a love triangle is difficult enough, so getting us to take this seriously, and tackling it in a such a sweet way (with the sisters in particular never losing sight of their bond and their love for each other) is really the film's major accomplishment. More than that, it's nice to see cinema finally approve of something different than the same old family arrangement. Here's hoping more mainstream American films follow suit too.

Grade: B+

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