Everybody in Our Family is a new Romanian film directed by Radu Jude, who also penned the screenplay along with Corina Sabau. It’s about a divorced man who arrives to pick up his five year old daughter for a pre-arranged weekend visit, only to find his ex-wife not home and his mother-in-law and the man who’s replaced him in his wife’s life refusing to let him have his daughter because they claim she’s ill. When the wife gets home, police are called and matters get out of hand (you know, sort of like that fire started by O’Leary’s cow getting out of hand).
Have you ever been at a restaurant or coffee shop and a couple at a nearby table is having a knock down, drag out? You can’t look away, but at the same time, you have no context for the argument so nothing they say really makes enough sense or gives you the information you need to understand the conflict. So in the end, the whole thing becomes just kind of uncomfortable and embarrassing. That’s what watching this Eastern European Kramer v. Kramer is like. It’s a series of arguments and actions presented without enough of that all important context to really have an emotional stake in what’s going on.
Everybody in Our Family is very sincere (that’s one thing you can definitely say about it) and no one gives a bad performance, but it has little else to really recommend it. From a pacing standpoint, it feels a bit clunky (it takes forever for the other shoe to drop—we call it the inciting incident in screenplay patois) and then when the central character makes a fateful decision toward the end, it’s so fateful, there’s no place for the movie to go, and worse yet, it takes forever not to go there. It’s so fateful, and dramatized in such an over the top way (a few times, the characters tell the others to stop acting like they’re in a soap opera, which is something one wishes someone had told the writers and director) there’s no satisfactory way this movie could resolve itself. And sure enough, the authors paint themselves into such a corner that the whole thing ends, well, unsatisfactorily.