Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Review of My Happy Family

A Georgian film about a middle-aged woman who lives with her family in a small house (that's her mother and father, her husband, her grown-up son, grown-up daughter and boyfriend) and decides to move out and take a flat alone. The first scene is her being shown round the flat by the landlady, with some familiar 'I haven't got round to clearing out the last tenant's stuff' moments.

The decision to move out seems perfectly sensible - the mother is very controlling, the house very crowded (the family all keep their clothes in one wardrobe which is in the daughter's room, because it's too big to move anywhere else), and the husband very lacklustre - it took me quite a while to realise he was her husband because the relationship between them was so empty.

The film is sad and thoughtful, perhaps partly because the central character is an introvert in a society that doesn't seem to like them very much. She doesn't want to have people round for her birthday, but the family ignore her wishes and invite lots of people over for a big meal, which includes drinking and singing. A Georgian friend of mine has told me about the singing and toast-making culture of Georgia (every quaffing must be precluded with a speech) and it's clearly a real thing. The singing is beautiful - Georgians seem to fall naturally into four-part harmony, and to all know the tunes and the words to folk-songs.

In fact, Georgian society looks great. Tiblisi is not crowded or full of traffic. The neighborhoods she moves from, and too, are leafy and quiet, if a bit run down. The children in the schools are respectful (she's a secondary school teacher) and studious - there's no rowdiness that would be an inevitable part of the depiction of a school in a British or American film. There is a lot of community-ness (which gets on the nerves of the heroine) and the food they eat is all bought at the market and then cooked lovingly to make traditional recipes. Just goes to show that it's possible to be unhappy despite all this...

The film is very slow but nicely observed. I'll avoid spoiling the few actual developments that might be thought of as the plot.

Watched on Netflix.

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