Connect with us
'Family Members' is a curious mix of the whimsical and the serious that doesn't quite coalesce.


Berlinale 2019: ‘Family Members’ Deals Whimsically with Grief

‘Family Members’ is a curious mix of the whimsical and the serious that doesn’t quite coalesce.

A curious mix of bereavement drama, romantic comedy, and coming-of-age story, Family Members (Los miembros de la familia) is a muted experience. There is a lot to appreciate in the artistry and performances, yet its own modesty often seems to get in the way of true catharsis. While admirable for its oddball pairing, the film is ultimately more aesthetically pleasing than emotionally affecting.

Siblings Gilda (Laila Maltz) and Lucas (Tomás Wicz) stay the night in their deceased mother’s house by the seaside. They want to fulfill her final, cryptic wish: that her dismembered hand be tossed into the sea. The house has been foreclosed, but they break in any way and stay there illegally. Their plans to return to Buenos Aires, however, are quickly derailed by a coach strike, leaving the two of them stranded with each other, finally forcing them to deal with their unresolved issues. 

Gilda and Lucas don’t talk that much. When Gilda asks him if he loves her, he spits his toothpaste in her face; Family Members doesn’t want to tell us much else about this brother-sister relationship straightaway, instead cultivating a certain melancholy mood that reflects the harsh reality of grief. The beach is rarely picturesque; a permanent cloud covers the sky. The town’s glory has faded, and nothing in the house they broke into works — they even have to go the toilet outside. Lucas works out, goes for runs, and avoids talking to his sister while she sends nude pictures of herself to her boyfriend, patiently waiting for the bus strike to end.

Family Members has an off-kilter aesthetic, perhaps reflecting the way the world feels off-balance when confronted with grief. This point is made explicit when Lucas is told that the entire world we live in might be a computer simulation. That might also explain why fitness fanatic Guido (Alejandro Russek), who also trains by the beach, is interested in him. The seventeen-year-old boy has no idea how to deal with the kindness of this simpler, older man, leading him to act out in highly erratic ways. Meanwhile, Gilda has a different approach to reality: relying on chakra stones and tarot cards. Yet, while Lucas’ storyline dovetails together nicely with his belief system — including a hilarious representation of men finally opening up to one another — Gilda’s seemingly goes nowhere, relying on the anti-conflict conceit of the nice boyfriend back home.

The presentation of these issues is always unforced, leaving little reason to invest in these characters, especially when Lucas’ life is given so much extra weight, leaving Gilda to be something of a cipher. While we do find out about Gilda’s turbulent life before mother died, this is all told and not shown. Therefore, the two of them, although they argue a little, don’t really contrast and conflict with each other in a dramatically pleasing way. Director Mateo Bendesky seems more interested in humorous incidents than creating something that really pops off the screen. This all seems intentional on the director’s part, yet a whimsical approach to grief is something even the finest of filmmakers can find hard to pull off (Wes Anderson is a good example of a successful one). Credit to Bendesky, however, for trying with his first feature.

The 69th Berlin Film Festival runs February 7, 2019 – February 17, 2019. Visit the festival’s official website for more info.

Written By

As far back as he can remember, Redmond Bacon always wanted to be a film critic. To him, being a film critic was better than being President of the United States

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.



Anti-War Anti-War

Three Bestselling Anti-War Novels, Three A-List Film Adaptations…Three Flops:  Castle Keep, Catch-22, Slaughterhouse-Five


Vesper poster Vesper poster

Vesper: Sci-Fi That Thinks Big With Limited Means


Unforgiven movie review Unforgiven movie review

Unforgiven Ushered the Western into its Afterlife 


Your Full List of All Upcoming Marvel Movies Your Full List of All Upcoming Marvel Movies

A Full List Of Upcoming Marvel Studios Film And TV Releases


Robocop 1987 Robocop 1987

RoboCop is a Social Satire That Gets More Relevant With Age


Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues

Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues


Nope Nope

Jordan Peele’s Nope Explained: A Spectacle of “Bad Miracles”


Alex's War (2022) Alex's War (2022)

Alex’s War, a Documentary Study of Alex Jones, Misses the Big Picture 


Signs movie review Signs movie review

M. Night Shyamalan Signs Finds Comfort at the End of the World


All Out 2022 Predictions All Out 2022 Predictions

Way Too Early Predictions for All Out 2022


Biography: WWE Legends’ Look at Goldberg is One of the Best Wrestling Documentaries Ever 


Detective vs Sleuths Detective vs Sleuths

Detective vs. Sleuths: Buckle Up for a Bumpy Ride


Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop 1987 Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop 1987

Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop is an Anti-Fascist Classic 


Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con

Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con 2022: A Full Recap


High Noon at 70: When Time is of the Essence


Bullet Train movie review Bullet Train movie review

Bullet Train Makes All the Wrong Stops