Dir: Daniel Burman. Arg-It-Fr-Sp.2005. 100mins.
Cinema would be a less interesting place if directorsdidn't mine their obsessions, but this is the third time in six years thatDaniel Burman has cast Daniel Hendlerin a comedy-drama about a young Argentinian Jewishman called Ariel who is oppressed by the suspicion that he is not quite the sonhis family wanted.
Burman's follow-up to the Silver-Bear-winning Lost Embrace is a watchablebut undemanding portrait of ordinary people muddling on with their ordinarylives in present-day, post-devaluation Argentina.
What's new here is thecross-generational reach of the thing, which is given some meta-textual spiceby the casting of Burman's own son Eloy as Ariel's infant son. But although this is a fitfullyamusing film with moments of sharp emotional perception, it suffers from a lackof dramatic conflict.
Distributors and audienceare likely to feel that they have seen the same material done before, andbetter, in Lost Embrace; and it istelling that the film is playing in the Berlin Panorama sidebar rather than theofficial competition.
This time round, Ariel is noslacker, but an emotionally withdrawn young defence attorney who preferslecturing to his class of university students to getting his hands dirty in thelegal arena.
He leaves the latter task tohis father, Dr Perelman (Goetz) a smooth and successful barrister who has atalent for networking, and ingratiates himself with all sorts of clients byadopting their language and mannerisms. He's the kind of lawyer who pays a guyto play the witness in traffic cases, but he's also good at his craft, and ispainfully aware that his son rather looks down on the compromises he has chosento take.
Plenty of quiet comicmileage is made out of Ariel's tics and quirks, his near- inability to function outside of a suit and tie, the fact that eventhe son he has with his student-turned-wife Sandra occasionally calls daddy byhis surname. But there is not enough bitter in the bittersweet: the conflictbetween father and son never goes beyond some gentle sparring.
Cesar Lerner's jocular, klezmer-tinged soundtrack and the rather conventionalcinematography - with the exception of some spoof silent film inserts - bothsignal that this is a film that has few ambitions to be much more than aquietly humorous generational portrait.
The best that can be said ofFamily Law is that the cast(including the kids) is uniformly good and the characters feel both human andreal. No small achievement - but it doesn't make for a memorable film.
Maria Eugenia Sueiro