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Directed by Louise Archambault
  • YEAR 4 - FILM 5 / 
  • Canada / 
  • 2005 / 
  • French with English subtitles / 
  • 102 min
FAMILIA DVD & Online Streaming
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"Familia is a refreshing and insightful look at the relationships of two sets of three generations of women that contemplates the question of whether or not women are genetically bound to be like their mothers."
– Ray Bennett, The Hollywood Reporter
"A rich tapestry of subplots and characters [with a] keen sense of humor."
– Derek Elley, Variety
"[A] superbly acted and engrossing film!"
– Marta Barber, The Miami Herald


Michele, a divorced aerobics instructor with a gambling addiction, loses her job and seeks refuge with a childhood friend, Janine, who lives in a seemingly comfortable middle-class suburban neighborhood. Michele's rebellious teenage daughter, Marguerite, and Janine's shy and reserved daughter, Gabrielle, become friends, leading to unforeseen tensions that force both generations to reassess their values. Familia explores the question of how value systems are passed on from mother to daughter and asks: Is it possible to avoid passing on to our children those traits that we despise in our parents?

Editorial Reviews

Aug. 11, 2005

By Ray Bennett

Louise Archambault's "Familia" is a refreshing and insightful look at the relationships of two sets of three generations of women that contemplates the question of whether or not women are genetically bound to be like their mothers.

Steering well clear of soap opera, the film offers a slice of life that women will surely recognize and men would no doubt benefit from seeing. Only the lack of a clear point of view may keep it from having wide appeal.

Flighty aerobics instructor Michele (Sylvie Moreau), a single mother with a 14-year-old daughter, has a bad gambling habit that leaves her broke and homeless so she turns to her old friend Janine for help.

Janine (Macha Grenon) is an accomplished interior designer who has a beautiful home that she manages impeccably; overseeing her two children while her broadcaster husband is frequently away.

Michele's daughter Marguerite (Mylene St-Sauveur) is a free spirit like her mom while Janine's daughter Gabrielle (Juliette Gosselin) maintains a straight-laced demeanor to please her mom.

As Janine's brother is Marguerite's father and Michele's mother has a new boyfriend of her own, family gatherings are always an adventure but the kids calmly explain to their friends who's who.

Janine gives Michele a job and allows her old friend and her daughter to stay with her, but Michele's gambling habit gets worse and Janine's fussiness increases as she comes to believe that her husband is having an affair.

When the two daughters start to behave as adolescents will, Michele and Janine react in ways not dissimilar from how their own mothers respond when they turn to them for help.

The storyline is held together by a neat, if cruel, act of vengeance and there is much biting wit along the way. The acting is outstanding and the film suffers only from being book-ended by a speculative narration that leaves the drama unfulfilled.

Bottom line: Stimulating drama that asks if women must be like their mothers.

--Ray Bennet/ The Hollywood Reporter - Review

By Liam Lacey

A film about women and their daughters, Familia is a smart, well-modulated drama from first-time Quebec director Louise Archambault that packs a powerful after-effect.

Apart from the film's ill-conceived prequel, involving images of shimmering cells and a voice-over about "the genetic heritage of our parents," this is a portrait of two unrelated women who discover common ground despite differences in class, temperament and experience.

Michelle (Sylvie Moreau), a single mom and gambling addict in her 30s who is badly raising a 14-year-old daughter, Margot (Mylène St-Sauveur), is a disaster that you still can't help liking for her earthiness and resilience. The film opens with a presumably typical catastrophe in her life. Michelle has been fired from her job, her steroid-dealing boyfriend refuses to pay her debts, she piles her daughter and belongings in the car. She ends up at the home of her toxic mother (Micheline Lanctôt). When the mother's professor boyfriend holds forth on the importance of family over dinner, then offers Michelle a few bucks in exchange for a sexual grope, she knows it's time to move on.

She makes her way to Janine (Macha Grenon), a teen friend now living in suburban luxury. She's a slim, stylish interior designer and control freak, with two children who call her "Hitler" behind her back, and a husband, a television producer who appears to be away on perpetual assignment. The bond between the two women is a tenuous one: Janine's brother, during a period of slumming from his well-off life, fathered Michelle's daughter. Alone among her family members, Janine feels responsibility toward the family's black sheep.

A visit that was initially intended to be days somehow extends to weeks. The prim Janine and the reckless Michelle irritate each other. As well, Michelle's daughter, Margot, is a dangerous influence on Janine's naive daughter, Gabrielle (Juliette Gosselin), as she teaches her to sneak out late to parties with older teens.

Amid family gatherings and spreading subplots, we are introduced to a culture where most of the males are absent or predatory, the children run wild and the women are in various kinds of denial.

What Janine and Michelle have in common is loneliness and rage — they both have an enthusiasm for kick-boxing. While Michelle misuses Janine's business funds, we learn that Janine has a major secret of her own. It involves a young English woman she befriends and a surprise dinner party she arranges for her husband that's a tour-de-force of bourgeois black comedy.

By this time, Michelle has been exiled from the suburban paradise to a trailer park, where, in a series of punishing scenes, she is pushed to recognize her degradation. The film's conclusion, while far from upbeat, is more about compassion than despair. Inveterate gambler that she is, Michelle maintains deep pockets of optimism.

--Liam Lacey/ Globe and Mail - Review

August 17, 2005

By Derek Elley 
There aren't many ingredients writer-director Louise Archambault leaves out of "Familia," a dramedydramedy that certainly doesn't lack ambition, centered on a dysfunctional Quebec family. Well-cast ensembler's main flaw is lack of a consistent tone to bind itsdisparate elements: Pic would play much better as an ironic Altmanesque comedy, since its moments of pure drama are the weakest. Still, this is a largely entertaining feature debut that deserves fest spots and could work on a limited basis outside francophone Canada. Film's putative central character -- who later blends into the larger ensemble -- is Mimi (Sylvie Moreau), a divorced, thirtyish aerobics instructor who's up to her ears in debt from her deeper passion, gambling. Hightailing it out of Montreal with her restless 14-year-old daughter, Margot (Mylene St-Sauveur), Mimi, totally broke, decides to head for California. Problem is, she's broke.

Unable to raise any more cash from friends -- apart from her mother's (vet Micheline Lanctot) sleazy b.f.b.f., who pays cash for sexual favors -- Mimi turns up at the home of her childhood friend, Janine (Macha Grenon), in the comfy suburb of Saint-Hilaire. In a scene which only makes sense much later on, the audience has already been primed that gushy Janine is not quite the perfect mom she seems.

Janine allows Mimi to stay for what she hopes will be only a few days, especially since she considers Margot to be a potential bad influence on her obedient daughter, the younger Gabrielle (Juliette Gosselin). It's not long before tensions show between control-freak Janine and working-class hustler Mimi, though when Mimi finally offers to leave, Janine offers her a temporary job in her small interior design business.

Given the women's differences, this plot development is scarcely believable at the time, though it does make sense in light of subsequent events. Beneath her Stepford Wife-like exterior, Janine is achingly lonely: philandering hubby Charles (Vincent Graton) is away on what he claims is business most of the time, and her two kids call her "Hitler" behind her back. Even Mimi's company is better than nothing.

In fact, Janine is not so different from Mimi after all: She's coolly planning a piece of revenge that will liberate her. But first she has to deal with a betrayal by the gambling-addled Mimi.

Archambault provides a rich tapestry of subplots and characters behind the two women's stories: the growing friendship between kids Margot and Gabrielle, with the former introducing the latter to sex and parties; a crisis of Margot's own; plus a host of other people in Mimi and Janine's overlapping, extended families.

The best moments are when the comedy of situations is allowed to come to the fore (as in Janine's revenge plan), which shows the keen sense of humor in Archambault's slightly over-cooked characters. As Janine takes a more central role, Mimi's more realistic story is a more awkward fit for the movie, which still tries to balance drama and ironic comedy.

Grenon's Janine gradually steals the film in a beautifully calibrated perfperf, matched on the older side by Lanctot as Mimi's free-thinking mom and on the younger by Gosselin as tweenie Gabrielle. Moreau is fine as far as her role allows, but her character becomes annoyingly unsympathetic as the film progresses. St-Sauveur shows surprisingly mature smarts as her daughter.

Widescreen lensing by Andre Turpin is consistently good-looking, and other technical credits are smooth.

--Derek Elley/ Variety - Review

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Customer Reviews

Bryan Pfleeger - Customer Review
Louise Archambault's first true feature film Familia is a quirky family drama that makes an attempt at exposing real feelings in the bounds of a film about family and friendships. Sylvie Moreau plays Michele a down on her luck single mother trying to raise her teenage daughter (Mylène St-Sauveur) while supporting a gambling addiction. Due to an abusive relationship she heads out on the road and winds up living in the home of achildhood friend , Janine (Macha Grenon) also a mother with a teen daughter. Janine appears to live the perfect existence with an absent husband but there are cracks under the surface here also. The film explores the relationships between mothers and daughters over three generations. While the actaul events that drive the plot seem somewhat contrived at times, Archambault's intentions are good and this is a well made independent film that is worth a view.

Jeff in Seattle - Customer Review


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Macha Grenon, Sylvie Moreau, Mylène St-Sauveur, and Juliette Gosselin in Familia
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Sylvie Moreau and Mylène St-Sauveur in Familia
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Juliette Gosselin and Mylène St-Sauveurin Familia
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Sylvie Moreau and Jacques L'Heureux in Familia
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Micheline Lanctot and Sylvie Moreau in Familia
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Macha Grenon in Familia
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