The fractured-yet-fluid approach skips back and forth in time, displaying sequences from different perspectives, placing them in various contexts. Nothing is black-and-white, The Fam dwelling in the grey area where most of us reside. What may seem like trauma might just be unresolved angst, while a seemingly cheerful teen may harbor suicidal thoughts.
It might sound like a grim experience, but the filmmaker’s graceful touch, along with the genuine chemistry between the young stars, prevent the movie from sliding into total murk. Baillif masterfully connects the dots, but what’s arguably more impressive is how some scenes seemingly tread off-path yet fit perfectly within the plot. Two rebellious teens harass an elderly man in a subliminally powerful, off-kilter moment. Novinha’s disastrous attempt at getting a stable job marks another standout side-track.
“The girls act naturally, unaware of the camera’s presence…”
The Fam examines the politics behind running a children’s home. Lora attempts to connect with the children, but the established rules, based on preconceived bureaucratic notions, prevent her from doing so in a truly meaningful way. The concept of “family” is scrutinized and dissected. This home, and its staff, isn’t the girls’ family, not even a surrogate one. Lora ends up resorting to extremes that may cost her the one thing that keeps her afloat. When the one meaningful thing in your life loses meaning, what’s left?
The entire cast is splendid. The girls act naturally, unaware of the camera’s presence: they are hormonal, bitter, and sometimes nasty, but also joyful, resilient, and hilarious – lost souls struggling to cope. The young ladies confiding in each other make for the most heartrending moments in the film. Claudia Grob anchors the proceedings with existential angst, her mournful gaze saying more than words ever could. Yet when she does speak, she does so forcefully. “She must hear that she’s allowed to have desires,” Lora urges at a hearing committee in regards to Audrey’s sexual misconduct. “She’s allowed to have fantasies.”
This transitory “fam” is a short-term solution for these girls in a society that favors short-term solutions – because who wants to look that far into the future? Complemented by Joseph Areddy’s subtle cinematography that catches every shade of an expression, as well as a striking score of harmonizing vocals, The Fam sensitively deals with a tough subject and serves as a striking introduction to a roster of formidable talent. It certainly feels like the cast and crew have become a true family during the shoot.
"…some scenes seemingly tread off-path yet fit perfectly within the plot."