THERE ARE SOME FAMILY GATHERINGS THAT require a program to keep the cast of characters clear in one’s mind. I will avoid talking about my own since it would be easy for the family members to identify themselves in my stories. There have been many occasions where I have been included in another family’s event. From somber to joyful I have discovered each family has their own “baggage” whether they acknowledge it or not. Also, it has reaffirmed in me the belief that there is no such thing as a “normal” family. I was included in a friend’s family dinner where two sisters did not speak to each other because they had an argument months (yes, that is right months) ago. Do you have any idea how challenging it is to carry on a conversation where you have to address each person separately on the same topic? They never made eye contact nor referred to the other in any way; it was uncomfortable for me and yet the parents sat at the dining room table as if nothing in the world was wrong. The wildest part of it was when food was being passed around the table. Neither sister would hand the other any food going around; instead, would put it on the table to make the other sibling stand up and reach for it. Crazy, isn’t it? AT THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM, I have been at family functions where nothing was held back; family members were sharing the most intimate details about their personal lives. In other words, WTMI (way too much information). There would be no need for me to hear what type of physical characteristics a relative is looking for in a mate. Or how about sitting around the living room as 3 relatives get into a heated argument, calling each other names and swearing at the top of their lungs. I remember looking around to get a cue on how to react, but the other relatives were just sitting there sipping their cups of coffee and nibbling on their snacks as if nothing was taking place. At one point I thought I was entering a boxing match as the yelling relatives were getting up into each other’s faces. Now I come from a point of view where everyone has the right to express their feelings; but not during a heated argument. It should be a calm setting with no fear of retaliation. If you are curious to see an example of a family with issues, then feel free to observe what takes place with the family in this dramatic crime mystery. RETURNING TO HER SMALL HOME TOWN for her sister’s wedding was to be a happy occasion for Laura, played by Penelope Cruz (The Counsellor, Broken Embraces). But when a tragic event took place, the cracks beneath the family’s surface spread further apart. This film festival winning movie also starred Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside, No Country for Old Men) as Paco, Ricardo Darin (The Secret in Their Eyes, Wild Tales) as Alejandro, Edward Fernandez (Biutiful, The Man with Thousand Faces) as Fernando and Barbara Lennie (Magical Girl, El Nino) as Bea. The acting in this film was excellent; whether it was joyful or heart wrenching, I was feeling the characters’ emotional states. With the acting so strong, this picture needed a tightly written script to keep the actors aloft. At times I felt some scenes went flat; luckily, there were not many of them. The other criticism I have has to do with the ending. It seemed to tidy as if it wanted to wrap up the story quickly. Otherwise, this picture still kept my interest as I wondered what other things this family had hidden below the surface. Spanish was spoken with English subtitles.
2 ½ stars