The innocuously titled Family Film is director Olmo Omerzu’s second feature but it’s notable for its sophisticated formal qualities and persuasive ensemble performances, effectively introducing an intriguing new cinematic voice out of Slovenia.
Family Film opens on a moment where teens watch a nature program from the comforts of their car, their parents careening through the Prague cityscape. It serves as a welcome introduction to the film’s larger thematic elements, which may suggest another banal European art-house domestic drama, but cautiously reproaches such simplistic classification. The mechanics of the narrative are introduced quickly but without much of the typical flourishes one may come to expect: a mother and father, Igor and Irena (Karel Roden and Vanda Hybnerová), prepare for a posh vacation, as they sail through the Indian Ocean with their dog Otto. They leave their two children Anna and Erik (Jenovéfa Boková and Daniel Kadlec), both still in high school, to their own devices in their chic living quarters. There’s an unfussy, matter-of-fact quality to Omerzu’s direction that denies displays of histrionics or anything too dramatically calibrated, instead probing Anna and Erik in their natural states. The overarching sentiment here is that Omerzu treats the teens with a sense of respect, with Anna and Erik dealing with their parents’ prolonged absence with the requisite adolescent angst and indifference.
Tension builds when Anna and Erik don’t hear back from their parents for an extended period, leaving the two in a state of disarray with only their uncle Martin (Martin Pechlát) for familial comfort. From here, the narrative goes to an unexpected place, cutting between Anna and Erik’s continued plight with scenes of the family’s pooch, Otto, castaway on an unpopulated island. It’s in those scenes that the film really emerges as something unique, blending the picture’s domestic sequences with a beguiling survival narrative that, within the context of the picture’s broader thematic ambitions, serves it exceedingly well. It’s a risky gambit that yields something truly unexpected. For a film that would initially suggest otherwise, it’s something worth celebrating.