Family Law (IFC Films, NR)

film_familylaw_smSimilarities to Allen have been thrown around for a while in relation to the work of Daniel Burman, whose Family Law concludes an unofficial trilogy of three men named Ariel, each played by Daniel Hendler, at various stages of maturation.

 

 

 

 

Making comparisons to Woody Allen isn't a difficult thing; Allen has created his own blend of comedy that's instantly recognizable and, often, imitable. Sure, his new films seem like the work of imposters, but that doesn't make his style any less familiar. Similarities to Allen have been thrown around for a while in relation to the work of Daniel Burman, whose Family Law concludes an unofficial trilogy of three men named Ariel, each played by Daniel Hendler, at various stages of maturation (the first two being Waiting for the Messiah and Lost Embrace). The similarities, I'm afraid, are not strong. Hendler's Ariels in relation to Burman's direction, in theory, function like Woody Allen, the actor, under Woody Allen's direction, but they're hardly analogous. Not that there's anything wrong with Allen's trademark personality, but Family Law would play like an Allen feature without the snark or self-deprecation—and would that really be an Allen film? You can cite examples of the contrary, but Burman's films, though equally telling and intimate, bare only minor resemblance to Allen, one of his favorite filmmakers.

film_familylawFamily Law finds Burman's third Ariel, a lawyer and university professor standing in the shadows of his well-respected, successful father (Arturo Goetz), at a crucial period in his life where his office has been shut down, due to collapse, for a month. He decides not to tell his wife Sandra (Julieta Díaz), as this free time allows him time for personal reflection. Ariel is a distant father to an infant (Eloy Burman, the director's own son), a man who sleeps in his suit and tie, and a son who doesn't know his father outside of his professional relationship. He's extremely displaced as a man of many facets; the only similarities he appears to have with his father is their occupation and distaste for soccer. Family Law is not a film where a man discovers the true meaning of his life or his interpersonal relationships, but instead, a story of a man's dealing with potential awakening through an unintentional lapse in professional responsibility.

Burman, who also wrote the screenplay, scatters Ariel with minor quirks, none of which necessarily affect the progress of the film, creating a three-dimensional human out of his character. Ariel is completely likeable even if you're constantly unsure as to how he feels about himself. In one scene, he tells his wife to "quit distracting him from trying to be in anguish." Certainly, that's a line that would recall Allen, but Ariel's not the neurotic, overanalyzing man you would come to expect from a line like that. There are small moments of subtle intrigue, such as when Ariel watches his wife touch the torso of an attractive man during a Pilates class, that really bring Family Law to life. It's a mature study of an adult unsure of his place and path in life that's refreshingly warm and thankfully unsentimental without being distant. | Joe Bowman

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