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An Australian made and backed documentary that isn't as insightful as it could've been, Rosie Jones's The Family looks to shine a light on the terrible Australian based sect led by the crazed Anne Hamilton-Byrne that became known as "The Family", a community that harboured a dark secret of drug abuse, unlawful adoption and emotional trauma all on our front doorstep.
The case is one that many Australian's would still remember and a case that remains fresh in the minds of those that were located in Victoria and close to where the Family operated in Lake Eildon throughout the 1970's and 1980's but despite Jones having access to past members of the sect including children that had been taken by Byrne and those involved in the investigation's, you still feel like you aren't any the wiser as to what drove Byrne or those that followed her teaching's.
A glaring omission from The Family is the fact that until towards the very later stages of the documentary we're left relatively in the dark about Byrne and her past and how she came to think she was a version of Jesus Christ reincarnated.
It would've given the film and the story of this cult far more context and had Jones been able to get to the bottom of how the cult came to be, it would've connected us in stronger fashion to what was happening at the time to allow Byrne to build a collection of strong followers that not only gave her their devotion, but scenarios that included committing illegal acts and also monetary support that left many of Byrne's sect members reeling from financial and emotional heartache.
Without what feels like a hearty deep analysis of the history of the Family's beginnings or Byrne herself, The Family does however feature some emotionally engaging and truthful accounts from one time child members of the sect as well as those called to investigate the goings on of the Family from the various police departments.
These talking head components of Jones film offer the best elements to the film but aren't enough to cover up what feels like a relatively skin deep examination of a bizarre situation.
Final Say –
The Family is an interesting documentary but one that isn't a must see and perhaps Jones would've been better suited to develop a miniseries format of this story that could've dug a lot deeper into the coming's and going's of a sect that remains' one of Australia's most shocking acts of brainwashing and manipulation.
2 ½ pet graves out of 5
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