Family Law **1/2
"Family Law" is a light film-a little too light in fact-so light that it goes from being good and enjoyable to slightly amusing. And then it tries to be a little heavy and even philosophical in the end. Sadly, the first two thirds was too whimsical for anything remaining to be taken seriously. This is the second film from Argentina that I've seen in a month, the other being "The Aura." For some reason that is beyond me, "Family Law" was the official selection from that country for the Academy awards. I don't understand how something so standard could see their official selection, and then they pass up something as thrilling as "The Aura." I had a lot of hope for this after hearing how the people of Argentina felt about it, but there isn't anything very special about it, not at all. It failed to have to walk out of the theatre with a smile on my face.
"Family Law" tells the story of two lawyers-the first is Bernardo Perelman. Bernardo has done the same thing pretty much every day-working for years at a law firm. He wakes up at a certain time, goes to the corner coffee shop where he eats his little breakfast and reads the paper, and then he goes to the courts to make the rounds. His office has another office within it that is unoccupied except for some books. This office was originally supposed to be used by the second lawyer, Bernardo's son, Ariel Perelman. Ariel does indeed have a law degree, but he decided not to be in court. Instead he teaches a law course, where he has his eyes on one of his students, Sandra. Sandra teaches a Pilate's class, and when she stops showing up to Ariel's class he decides to enroll in her class so that he could be close to her. Eventually she does gain an interest in him, especially after Perelman accompanies her to court. It turns out that it is illegal to teach Pilate's privately because it is a trademarked technique. Ariel asked his father for some help in the case, a little detail that Ariel refuses to tell his wife-after all, he doesn't want her to leave him. Years later Ariel is a family man-him and his wife have had a child named Gaston. Ariel finds himself drifting from his family-it's even to the point where he forgets that its his fathers birthday. His wife warns him:
"Sunday is your son's birthday. I'm telling you in advanced so that you don't forget."
Whoa. Talk about very little trust. Ariel starts to examine himself and his relationship with his father. He even finds out a few secrets about his father's past that he may not agree with completely. Adjusting to his new role as husband and father, Ariel starts to see how he behaves differently and similar than his old man.
Like I said, "Family Law" is mildly entertaining but certainly not groundbreaking enough to be considered for any awards. You might even say that Argentina wasted their chance at winner an Oscar, or even being nominated. This isn't a film that the other contenders need to worry about. It is nothing that we can't see made in Hollywood-only done worse I'm sure-and it is nothing extremely entertaining as well as thoughtful-and once again I can't stress how good "The Aura" is. It is a slightly amusing family comedy, and there really isn't much else to say about it. And I enjoy light films if they are well done, but there were a number of moments here that just couldn't get my full attention. The father/son dynamic, or the bulk of the film, is the only thing that it has going for it, and that isn't even done well enough to care about it. And then the final surprise at the end is so forced and tacked on that you roll your eyes. Of course it had to end this way! It's a father/son comedy! Those who are used to the more stronger and deeper art films will have to look elsewhere. "Family Law" will amuse you for an hour and a half, but ten minutes after you leave the theatre you will be looking for something else to satisfy you. Maybe a nice sandwich, or maybe just a better movie.