Greetings again from the darkness. Family dynamics often make for entertaining movie fodder. The possibilities are endless and source material is in full supply, given that most of us have enough stories to write our own book! This latest from director Pieter Gaspersz drops us right in the middle of the Valentino family, and all the bickering, conflicts and secrets that any one family can generate.
The script is from Gaspersz’ wife, Sabrina Gennarino, who also stars as daughter Maxine, one of the key characters in the film. You will probably recognize her along with many of the other actors who make up the family, though you may not recall all the names. Kathleen Quinlan plays the mother, and it doesn’t take us long to realize everyone is tiptoeing around her – we just aren’t sure why. Her husband is played by John Doman, and he is the most difficult character to connect with because he coddles his wife and basically ignores his (grown) kids … even Christian (an underrated Pablo Schreiber), the son who has taken over the family stone business. Adam Scarimbolo plays Niky, the family screw-up (well, one of them anyway). Niky is lost in life, and it’s obvious the conflict with his dad must be resolved before he can really grow up. Aunt Kat (the mom’s sister played by Diane Neal) is apparently around to help out, but she spends most every day chugging booze.
While it may sound like an impossible family to understand, there are moments that strike an emotional chord and make the film quite watchable. There is some choppiness in the presentation, but it’s beautifully filmed by Jonathan Hall, and pretty solidly acted by the entire cast. The themes of loss, grief, deception, and family (mis)communication are sometimes far-fetched, and other times spot on. The father’s concern about “protection” for his daughter comes across as a bit awkward, until the big reveal towards the end. At that point, we all understand what he means by protection and why he had his doubts about her fiance (played by Darrin Dewitt Henson). Until the reveal, there are times it plays like an extended episode of TV’s “Parenthood“, but in the end, the puzzle is mostly complete and the payoff is satisfactory.