10 October 2006 | gradyharp
Dreams, Expectations, Fantasies: A Family Tale
'Que faisaient les femmes pendant que l'homme marchait sur la lune?' (strangely 'translated' for the English speaking audiences as FAMILY PACK!) is a fascinating, involving, probing, witty, tender little film from Belgium that uses a loaded homecoming to unfold a strange family's secrets and modes of adapting to the real world. It is a story, written by Chris Vander Stappen ('Ma Vie En Rose') who also directs, to savor, to watch again, and to open some windows for thought after the credits go dark.
Sacha Kessler (Marie Bunel) has been living in Montreal where her family thinks she is in Medical School and courting young doctors: she is actually in a happy lesbian relationship with Odile (Macha Grenon) and enjoys her group of a bit off-center but very supportive friends. The year is 1969, significant in that Sacha has been requested to come out to her family living in Belgium before a man walks on the moon. Failing to admit her lifestyle on the telephone she returns after two years absence to her home in Belgium where she is to reveal her true status to her family. And what a family!: her mother Esther (Hélène Vincent in a sparkling role) is a seamstress whose home business is failing but who assigns all of her fantasies for a better life on her 'doctor daughter'; her father Oscar (Christian Crahay) lives in a never land of dance and old jokes; her grandmother Lea (Tsilla Chelton) still dresses up each morning to go to the train station where she thwartedly awaits the return of her ideal boyfriend of decades ago; her dwarf sister Elisa (Mimie Mathy) who, feeling unwanted and ignored by her parents, concentrates her attentions on a goldfish who accompanies her everywhere. The story ties these wonderful but reality-disjointed people together with subplots that explain how each member of the family arrived at their state of denial and how Sacha's eventual revelation of the truth about her life actually draws the family together. Oh, it is much more complicated than that, but getting through the developments of the story is the joy of the film. Astute viewers will remember that 1969 was the year of man's first walk on the moon - and hence the analogy of the idea of the story.
With a superb, solid cast of wondrously loony characters who find their way into our hearts despite their surface idiosyncrasies this creation by Chris Vander Stappen is pure magic. It has a solid if aberrant storyline, a simplicity in presentation that reveals a number of very important philosophical and psychological issues, and it entertains. In short, it is a joy and highly recommended for those viewers who take pleasure in watching potentially disastrous family reunions become meaningful positive journeys. Grady Harp