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On her 84th birthday, Emilia gets a call from her sister in Misiones inviting her to be matron of honor at a family wedding. Emilia tells her family that all of them are making the trip. Her two daughters, their husbands and children, one great-grandchild, and one child's friend jam into a camper van atop an old Chevy pickup. They leave from Buenos Aires. Engine trouble, a toothache, a stray dog, mosquitoes, and the heat complicate the journey. Cousins kiss, a melancholy brother-in-law tries to re-kindle an old flame, and the infant's father shows up uninvited. The screen is full of close ups. "Well, that's life," says Emilia. Written by
Perky and energetic ride through the dusty and sweaty Argentinian wildernesses, with a family rolling through the emotions.
Rolling Family tells the story of a large group of people, more or less members of the same family name, journeying from one side of the nation of Argentina to the other so as to service a long standing and much loved member of their family. It begins and ends with this same elderly woman observing an item, physical in the sense of the opening in the form of some old mementos; but concludes with a pausing and a pondering of something once everything that's happened has happened: new memories have been forged and life goes on. The film has a knowing and sweet eye on life as an item, the bonds that form; the various degrees of love for someone else that unfold; the sacrifices we take on and the hardships we all grind through together. Despite beginning and ending on the same individual, the film is as much about the family within the film as it is her and what she's going through; culminating in an interesting and thoughtful mediation on a number of characters with a number of traits.
Pablo Trapero has written and made a piece that will remind you of another Argentinian film, this time from 2001, in La Ciénaga; alá The Swamp. Its sticky, intimate, close-up, cramped feeling is difficult to shake when you watch it; it's heated, not just by way of the weather but also the attitudes certain characters have towards one another at certain times while its wonderfully free flowing feel will guide you effortlessly from one clutch of characters, young or old; male or female, and their problems to another clutch, all the while shifting tones and atmospheres with the minimal of fuss. But Trapero applies certainly the aesthetic of that to a road film arc, taking everything from that enclosed and very rural, very isolated country house and applying it to a film about a large family crammed into a mobile home as they journey from the Buenos Aires outskirts to the town of Misiones.
People have compared it to 2006's American film Little Miss Sunshine, but it's a bit better than that; it underplays its material, its more interested in its characters than it is interested in attempting to create some sort of 'cult' item by way of the idea that a broken down, dilapidated yellow VW camper van might act as an iconic image of some kind. It doesn't buckle into providing well known actors playing individuals in the most archetypical of manners; rather, we are provided with rough and ready looking people whom have more of a genuine feel to them as these personal and intimate thoughts and studies are played out. Certain characters here react to different things and each are going through changes in their lives at various points, with a middle aged married couple struggling with one another and their child; adolescents feeling certain feelings for their cousins and gruff looking fathers and husbands raging at both toll booth prices and with members of the constabulary, therefore with the state itself, in what is a varied but focused spread.
The film's opening of a large gathering in which a lot of fun is had and many bonds are seemingly enhanced is only the beginning. Elderly woman Emilia (Chironi) announces to everybody at that congregation that she is to travel to the said town of Misiones so as to attend a wedding and contribute heavily to that. The rest of the family take it upon themselves to travel with them in a somewhat rickety mobile home and the adventure is on. Some of the people at the early gathering seem to think they know each other, that they can get along whatever the situation but they learn that it is relatively simplistic to merge with one another at a large and open gathering, when everyone's there to have fun anyway and there's always another space to venture off to with space to manoeuvre. Rolling Family will later consist of enclosed and cramped conditions, in which people are there to journey to a destination with any emphasis on any sort of 'fun'; they are locked in a place in which one may not merely shift to another part of the locale if someone else annoys or frustrates them and they will come to accept a truer form of family bond.
Trapero balances the long and wide open Argentinian roads complete with rural nothingness surrounding them really well with the enclosed interior scenes inside the mobile home. Like The Swamp, Trapero is able to get the most out of both the premise of the situation but additionally make the mostly rural locales they find themselves in as sweaty and itchy as the rest of the film. Here's a film, or a pair of films, less interested in quaint cinematography revolving around beautiful foliage part of a forest but the hot and humid border-line jungle that these characters find themselves traipsing through and existing within so as to reach their destination. I can understand a film about a frustrating road trip to a far off locale as individuals with flaws exist within close proximity to one another in a film with a lazy and sticky aura being a tricky sell, but Rolling Family is worth the effort as these characters and each of their predicaments are given due attention.
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