Sometimes documentaries have something to say, and sometimes documentaries just present the facts and let you come to your own conclusion. In Katie Greene and Carlye Rubin’s The Family I Had, you decide as you sift through the wreckage of a family changed forever following a single tragic event.
“…13-year-old Paris Lee Bennett killed his four-year-old sister, Ella.”
In 2007, 13-year-old Paris Lee Bennett killed his four-year-old sister, Ella. Ten years later, directors Greene and Rubin shine a light on the thoughts and feelings of the remaining family without sensationalizing or exploiting the tragedy. The players are mother Charity, son Paris, and estranged grandmother Kyla. Thankfully, all three subjects are emotionally honest and amazingly introspective.
Charity struggles to not only find meaning and purpose from the death of Ella, but she struggles to manage her increasingly complicated life with her toddler son, incarcerated son and mother Kyla. Paris has not known freedom as an adult. Is he truly remorseful for the death of his sister or is he a sociopath? Kyla is the mother who loves her children and grandchild and is not confident Charity is making the right decisions for her sons.
“Is he truly remorseful…or is he a sociopath?”
The documentary is fascinating to watch and makes good use of talking head interviews. The use of family photos to fill visual gaps seems a little overdone, but what shines is the original artwork of Paris Bennet including his haunting images from childhood to his prison portfolio. His line art style is good, and the directors chose to animate the images for effect.
The Family I Had makes no attempt to be political or force an issue down your throat. It simply presents the facts and feelings as they are. You decide right and wrong, good and evil, justice and forgiveness. This may not be your cup of tea, but it’s worth a view just for the debate you’ll have with yourself afterward.
The Family I Had (2017) Directed by Katie Greene and Carlye Rubin. Featuring Charity Bennett, Paris Lee Bennett, and Kyla Lee.
3.5 out of 5 stars
The Family I Had is currently available on DVD, Blu-ray and for purchase and rental on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.