Family Obligations is an earnest but technically-flawed film written and directed by Kenneth R. Frank. The story centers around our main character, Peter (played by Chris Mollica) as he deals with the loss of his father. Their relationship was a severely distanced one, but now it’s up to Peter to settle the family affairs like selling the house and other unpleasant business. It’s certainly a very relatable story, and Chris Mollica implements very dry humor keeping everyone at an emotional distance, but the film has issues outside of its story and directing. For one thing, the cut I watched had this noticeably warm hue to it that never let up. There are also some perceptible sound issues here and there, some spotty acting, and a fairly generic soundtrack. These things can sometimes be expected when you’re watching a low-budget indie film, but superficial technical issues aside, the film really did work for me.
“All Peter wants to do is move on with his life, but family issues keep getting dumped on his lap…”
The heart of the film is Peter. You really feel for him. All Peter wants to do is move on with his life, but family issues keep getting dumped on his lap. Along the way, he kind of inherits his terminally-ill uncle, Frank (played by Frank Failla), a socially unstable curmudgeon who forms an unlikely friendship with Peter. Along the way, Peter meets single-mother Melanie (played by Chandler Rosenthal) and her precocious child Mia (played by Eleanor Brandle- Frank) and develops a relationship with the pair that gains him wisdom and insight on what it means to be a part of a family. The story of Family Obligations is admittedly pretty predictable, there are no surprises, and it’s all pretty straightforward, but I can look past that because the cast has natural feeling chemistry and their dialogue is all pretty solid. A lot of the humor stems from this film’s uncomfortably awkward moments, and there are a few during Peter’s Father’s funeral that had me laughing pretty hard. I really loved the way Peter and Frank kind of grew on each other and evolved their relationship, and the revelations revealing why Peter was so withdrawn from his family makes sense and feels completely understandable.
Ultimately Family Obligations is worth giving a watch if you can forgive a few of its noticeable blemishes. Strengthened by a solid and hilariously dry performance from Chris Mollica and a relatable and honest story that examines the family dynamic, this film has an overabundance of heart. I’d love to see what Kenneth R. Frank could do with a bigger budget and more experienced actors. I would definitely recommend this movie, especially to anyone who has found themselves in similar situations involving strained relationships and/or caretaking.
"…a relatable and honest story that examines the family dynamic..."