Subhash K Jha reviews Family Romance LLC

Review of Mubi’s Family Romance LLC: A Japanese Gem

Family Romance LLC (Mubi)

Starring Yuichi Ishii, Mahiro Tanimoto

Directed by Werner Herzog

Rating: *** ½

For Werner Herzog cinema is a medium that is meant to carry forward Man’s ever-renewable conversation with Nature. This slender masterly portrait of human relationships is played out mostly in a blossoming park filled with luscious flowers where we meet the shy 13-year old girl Mahiro meeting her father Yuichi for the first time.

At first the girl is quiet (don’t strain to hear the background music, props are not a strong point in this sparse stripped-down drama). Then she begins to open up, sharing her pictures and thoughts with her ‘father’ who, it soon turns out, is not her father but a professional con-artiste hired by her mother to pose as her father.

The brief but overwhelming film plays out in a tenor that is the opposite of Indian films about ‘hired families’ such as the Tamil Minsara Kanna where a familial charade is milked for humour. Family Romance LLC is a profoundly tragic story of a society that is so splintered and fractured that it seeks normal family values in play-acting.

The wonderful thing about this uniquely conceptualized ‘family drama’ is that the main characters are all played by non-actors. So what we see are non-actors ‘acting’ roles of actors. The simulated relationships and the attempt to create a false narrative of kinship around lonely lives, are underlined by a remote sense of hope and optimism.

While heavyweight director Werner Herzog concentrates on constructing the father-daughter relationship through random conversations and pregnant pauses, which are then mercilessly dismantled, there are other professional commitments for Yuichi to fulfill, such as making a woman who once woman a lottery, experience the same joy again, and making a young girl feel important among her social-media friends.

This is a film that doesn’t aim to achieve any pointed sense of achievement. But its seeming pointlessness, its lack of cinematic consciousness, is what makes this Japanese gem so endearing.

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