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Blu-ray: Everybody in Our Family | reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: Everybody in Our Family

Blu-ray: Everybody in Our Family

Bitter but enthralling family drama from the Romanian New Wave

Nuclear family: Sofia Nicolaescu and Șerban Pavlu

The packaging suggests that Radu Jude’s Everybody In Our Family (Toată lumea din familia noastră) is a dark romp, one source describing it as a “chaotic yet endearing comedy chamber piece”. And no one would dispute the sheer craft on display, Jude’s hand-held camera capturing in real time a seismic family breakdown. The performances are magnificent, the direction brilliant, but watching this 2012 film is a gruelling experience. It was the third feature from the Romanian director, whose most recent work, I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians (2018), brought him considerable festival acclaim.

The set-up is simple in the extreme, with divorced thirtysomething man child Marius (Șerban Pavlu) attempting to take his young daughter away for a weekend. Marius’s fragile mental condition is signalled by the state of his flat, the rooms piled high with crap. He attempts to borrow his parents’ car, before affectionate intergenerational exchanges turn into a vicious slanging match. Marius’s father lobs insults like bullets; to him, his son is an emasculated failure, a man lacking car, wife and child who’s reduced to repairing dentures for elderly patients.

Everybody In Our FamilyThings deteriorate further once Marius arrives at his ex-wife’s flat to retrieve the adorable Sofia (a scene-stealing Sofia Nicolaescu). New partner Aurel (Gabriel Spahlu) and mother-in-law Coca (Tamara Buciuceanu-Botez) insist that Marius wait for Mihaela Sîrbu’s Otilia to return from a beauticians’ appointment and grant permission. Marius’s frustration quickly reaches boiling point. The verbal sparring is initially entertaining, despite the sense that the English translation can’t fully convey quite how sharp the exchanges are in Romanian, although these subtitles are seriously sweary. Aurel gets thwacked by Marius swinging the front door (“It was a misunderstanding”), the prelude to a series of events which might be comic in a Tex Avery short, but not so here. It’s brutally exhausting to watch, and our sympathies lie with poor Sofia, her hands pressed against her ears.

There are flickers of warmth amongst the shouting: Marius’s exchanges with his daughter show the love between the pair, and there’s evidence that he and Otilia were once a well-matched couple. We’re looking at two mature adults tumbling over a precipice. The squabbling is excruciating because it’s so believable, Jude’s eye and ear for detail suggesting that we’re looking at documentary footage (a bonus directorial interview reveals that Jude based the film on personal experience). Two early shorts complete the package, both focusing on parent-child relationships: 2007’s Alexandra neatly prefigures the main feature, another pithy tale of estranged parents. Second Run’s HD transfer is impressive, and Carmen Grey’s booklet essay usefully puts Jude’s work in context.

Marius’s fragile mental condition is signalled by the state of his flat

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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