Christmas is a time for reflection and joy, in which you are forced by societal convention to enjoy time with your family. But whether you spend the Christmas holidays counting the days ’til you can escape their suffocating presence or you actually – gasp! – enjoy this time, there’s no doubt that your family can’t possibly compare to some of the crazy cinematic representations of relations. This month’s Top Ten is dedicated to filmic depictions of the most unenviable families, so that you can learn to appreciate your own kin over this year’s festive season…
Patriarchy gone wild in Dreyer’s spectacular drama. After Victor loses his job, he unleashes his feelings of angry helplessness on his wife and children, making them do tedious chores all day as he barks orders. Wouldn’t work for my hen-pecked father!!
While Ann and George Farber (and their young son Georgie) are a charming family, their situation dissuades one from wanting to be a part of it. While holidaying at their idyllic lakeside rental house, they are visited by two eerily polite, white-clothed young men, Peter and Paul, who wish to play games with them… funny games. FUNNY GAMES is bound to make you see Christmas family time in a very different way.
8. The McCallister Family (HOME ALONE; Chris Columbus, 1990)
Poor little Kevin McCallister is left all alone over Christmas after his silly family run off to Paris and forget about him! While inane madcappery did ensue in their absence, Kevin nonetheless learnt to appreciate his family – even his horrid older brother Buzz, whom I have never forgiven after he ate Kevin’s preferred cheese-only flavour of pizza. Meanie!
Sweet-hearted wonder-mother Annie (played with glorious pathos by Juanita Moore) is detested by her daughter Sarah Jane, who loathes her mother’s dark skin. Without giving anything away, I defy anyone not to be sobbing and phoning their mothers during Mahalia Jackson’s stirring rendition of “Trouble of the World.”
It’s a bit unfair to label the Park family one of the least enviable families in film. I mean, sure, they’re a fairly useless and ineffectual bunch of losers, but they are so endearing, and they love eachother so much. But really, if I was stuck down a sewer with a man-eating mutant amphibian the size of a small bus like little Hyun-seo, I’d expect my family to save me. Just sayin’.
OK all you purists: I know the buxom beauties at the core of Russ Meyer’s titillating (pun intended) yarn aren’t technically family, but the three enjoy a distinctly sisterly relationship. They squabble and bitch, but they ultimately find solace and strength in one another on their violent run from the law. But I’m glad they ain’t my sisters. I’d feel physically inferior.
There is not a scene in cinema that so perfectly captures the angst of teenage emotion like the birthday party scene in SHOW ME LOVE. Unpopular and sexually confused, Agnes is mortified when her mother insists that Agnes should have a birthday party…And nobody shows up. The squirming embarrassment and pity you feel for Agnes is enough to send you spiraling back into teenage rage.
Poor Sonia can’t be blamed for most of the terrible things that happen to her newborn son (after all, it was Bruno who sold him for five thousand Euros) but she is a bit of a dope to become involved with such a man to begin with. THE CHILD will certainly give your parents ammunition come Christmas time: “Yes darling, I threw away your treasured childhood teddy bear. But I didn’t sell you to fund my criminal exploits.” Touché, Mum!
When Shukishi and Tomi travel to visit their children in Tokyo, they are met with disinterest from their selfish progeny, with only Noriko (the sublime Setsuko Hara) at all pleased to see them. And Noriko is actually the widow of their deceased son, who has no tangible tie to the parents anymore! No film tugs at the heart strings as beautifully and subtly as TOKYO STORY, inducing viewers to give their parents enormous bear hugs.
1. That Bunch of Murderous Freaks (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE; Tobe Hooper; 1974)
They live next to a disused slaughterhouse in a filthy, stinking hovel; they kill passers-by and then eat them, allowing their maniacal, chainsaw-wielding son to wear the victims’ skin as his own. Case closed: least enviable family ever depicted on film.