5 December 2001 | dbdumonteil
We struggled hard all our life to get by..
..and however,she's leaving home,at least mentally.
"Family life" is the most difficult,the most austere of all Kenneth Loach's efforts.One should add it's also his most dated.The generation gap,with these "boys and daughters who are beyond your command",all this looks like hippie relics.As do the mother's wailings:the youth is not what it used to be,they don't show respect anymore,they make love all day when they're not taking drugs etc.The generation gap is not typically sixties or early seventies.It's an all-time problem:For instance,Elia Kazan's "East of Eden" was made in 1954,and the action takes place circa 1914.So a lot of stuff at the beginning of "Family life" deals with clichés.
Nevertheless,this movie is a must if you like the "European " style.Its form is absolutely unique,looking like a special report,a survey,with question/answer dialogues galore.At times,we wonder whether the actors are actually playing.We're close to "cinema verite" (see JL Godard's "masculin feminin" (1966))A viewer who would turn the TV on halfway through the movie,might think he's watching a documentary film.
Janice is a rather normal young woman,with normal problems.she had a hard time of it when she had an abortion .Her mother is a puritan,rigid,and probably frigid woman,her father is a "honor and duty" man.Both content themselves with a routine nine-to-five life,and they are convinced that they are good parents.The father is proud of the clock his bosses have given to him,after 25 years of hard work,the mother of her jelly.
Janice is some kind of misfit,and she's not unlike the main character from "la tête contre les murs"(George Franju,1958).But there's a huge difference:Franju tells a story,Loach does not.No dramatization at all in the English director's film.There is a similar scene in the two movies:both inmates escape ,take refuge in their girl/boyfriend's flat,then the police come:Franju's character is desperate,revolted,Janice is already a zombie,she cannot react anymore.
A lot of people said the shrinks were caricatures in "family life":completely true as far the last one is concerned.But the first one ,on the other hand ,sees well:three times,he asks the father if his sexual relations are satisfying ,and every time he tries to change the subject.
Kenneth Loach has come a long way from the documentary style of "poor cow"(1967) and "family life".It's interesting to note that the movie midway between ,"Kes" (1969),is more accessible,being more storybook.During the eighties and nineties,with such works as "hidden agenda" and the wonderful "carla's song",Kenneth Loach will prove he can be a story teller too.