Acting, photography, art design, story come together well in this near omnibus
Family Ties, whose Corean title is literally translated "Birth of a Family", is a rather curious film. It gives the appearance of being a three part omnibus film, but includes more than a few elements that bring it close to the edge of mainstream cinema and into another world entirely. I had my doubts going in but ended up being quite impressed by this seemingly "small" film about nothing more than family and relationships.
Right from the early part of the first segment, dealing with a woman whose deadbeat brother barges back into her life, bringing along a surprise or two in tow, you can tell that a lot of this film is carried by the actors. And the principal actors carry their parts spectacularly and the supporting cast doesn't slouch either. Even if this film were merely an acting showcase, it would have succeeded, but it brings more to the table with a few limited moments of artistic fancy, absolutely gorgeous photography (some of which I just want to frame) and some surprises along the way.
The second tale deals with the strained relationships around an quick-tempered young woman and the final deals with a young couple's problems. One thing I love about these stories is how each story helps you read the other stories and how the film just goes straight for an exploration of the theme of family, even in the final segment, which you don't immediately see the connection to the theme. And this subtlety that the film engages in, while it might seem clever to the particularly cinematically jaded, sponsors a surprising engagement with the film--it's not so much that there's a surprise twist, but the way that the film connects the dots between its stories is rather heartwarming and rewarding to those who engage with the separate story lines.
Honestly, I have to recommend this film. It won me over, from its sparkling production values (it definitely doesn't scream indie), to its gorgeous photography, powerful acting, subtle-yet-intelligent storytelling and willingness to play at the edges of what you'd expect. You do need to give it a chance, because the nature of the separate segments require them to be paced and while the film does work sometimes in the framework of Corean melodramas, it pulls back enough to keep it from sinking and flailing in the tradition. A solid and even wonderful film. 9/10.
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