Family. In many cases you can’t live with them yet; at the same time the chances are, you often feel you are unable to live without them. It is the one thing that we all possess no matter our race, culture or religious background. Some families are tightly knit; whilst others can’t stand the sheer sight of one another. The subject of family is the very foundation of the captivating short film ‘Family Reunion’ written and directed by LAMDA trained and former actor David Kitchen.
On the outside, the main subjects in the opening scenes of the movie give off an air of unity; of a distinct bond that is evident in their interactions both verbally and physically. The family in question are made up of Award winning actress and previous Wonder Woman feature Karen Bryson who plays “Karen” and her brother “Jason” played by ‘Lock, Stock’ actor Clint Dyer. We meet the family during a difficult time as they mourn the loss of their Uncle Bernie. As the family return home after the events of the funeral, the siblings and their father; played by Trevor Laird (Best known for roles in Quadrophenia and Doctor Who) appear as strong and as bonded as ever. Yet, the atmosphere is dramatically altered and left desperately unsettled by the short yet powerful flashbacks and flash forwards of both the brother and sister crying and battling against an external demon that we the audience are unable to decipher.
It’s these short scenes that juxtaposes the entire action as the characters struggle to revert to normality. We are left unable to understand what is unravelling before us. We are visually swung back and forth between the present day and events that have passed where both siblings come across an event which changes their lives forever.
A very powerful scene in the film comes from a flashback where Jason is driving in his car. He is fighting with his thoughts and speaking out loud. Yet, you are unable to see why he is drastically sweating and crying. In another scene his sister, also fights away her tears and we visibly witness both her mental breakdown as she struggles to come to terms with the shift in her immediate reality.
So what is the sinister secret which sees both brother and sister react to each other and pass one another like mere strangers on the street?
Kitchen cleverly interweaves the story of family and secrets with dreams and what happens when as humans our visions for our lives do not come into fruition. The siblings appear to have everything going for them. Karen is described as a ‘business woman’ while her brother is much of the same. Jason seems to be a loving husband and father to his children. Yet, we come to find that their lives are a fraud. Karen is in fact a prostitute; selling her body to make a living. Whilst her brother is a sex addict; addicted to paying women for sexual favours. Their carefully constructed lives gets ripped apart when Jason and Karen meet up for sex not realising who each other are.
The results are disastrous. Jason rejects Karen and gives off a sense of superiority over her. The fact that he is paying for sex when he has a wife at home is pushed aside as he struggles to eradicate the knowledge that his sister sells her body for monetary gain.
It’s heart breaking to witness the breakdown of a family in one swift swipe. In the end, after rejecting her once before, Jason rejects Karen again and the film comes to a close. The clever use of flashbacks, editing and the strong relationships between the siblings leaves you wanting to know what happens next. I felt a gaping hole as I realised that no matter their ‘united front’, their relationship and the strong bond they once possessed; would never occur again.
Many short films are unable to cover so many powerful and thought-provoking subjects with such detail and complexity. However, Kitchen successfully tells a story that not only evokes strong emotions but also allows you to connect with the main protagonists. Both Bryson and Dyer give exceptional performances and it is evident that they both connected with not only their characters but also with the sensitive subject matter itself.
‘Family Reunion’ is an amazing film and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. View the official trailer above and gain more insight into this captivating script. A fantastic directorial debut from Kitchen.
View the trailer on the films official website: http://www.familyreunionfilm.co.uk
After attending the press screening, I was given the opportunity to sit in on an intimate Q&A with the director and main actors Karen Bryson and Clint Dyer. Read some of the excepts of that Q&A below:
What gave you the idea behind the story?
DK: Well firstly it’s not autobiographical. It was an idea I thought of quite a while ago…but how the idea actually came about, I can’t quite remember. It was many years ago, and I was out late one evening with Karen and I was telling her about the idea and she told me ‘you’ve got to make it!’. The conversation we had was very much about broken dreams; being in the acting world there is a lot of dreams and ambitions that don’t get fulfilled and sometimes you’ve got to make a living doing other things…fortunately, no one here on stage had to go as far as Karen did in the film, but that’s how the idea really came about.
Karen what attracted you to the script?
KB: I thought it was concise and multi-layered. Following on from what David was just saying with regards to broken dreams and where that can lead you and also that whole idea of family and sweeping things under the carpet. Everyone in this room has got stuff in their family, where it’s an awkward situation or where something has been said that you can’t take back. I find that interesting, because at the end of the day that’s human life. What do you do with the information and the situation that Karen and Jason were in? Do you not talk to your sibling? Do you not talk about it at all? That’s the thing I found interesting. I also loved how the end was open-ended; it makes you wonder do they not talk about it? Is it under the carpet? Do they have awkward Christmases? We’ve all got these situations in our families, it may not be as extreme a situation as this one but there is always that ‘something’ in family set ups – even in close families that you love – there will always be a time where that type of awkward energy is about. That’s what makes the script so multi-layered; a seemingly happy and functional family that really isn’t so functional and ‘normal’. It makes you think, what is classed as a ‘functional and normal family?’ and that’s what I really loved about the script. So nice one David!
The film jumps back and forth from past to present throughout, what made you order the scenes in such a way, instead of just telling the story in order?
DK: Because if it’s told in a linear structure, then quite frankly it really doesn’t make for much of a story. The reveal or the climax of the story, happens so much earlier, so by making the film have a non-linear structure, we are letting the reveal come that much later to help build the tension and make the story that much more exciting.
CD: Also from my perspective watching it, I think it gives us a deeper understanding of the family in the film; firstly it gives us an immediate suspense but it also gives us a deeper level of understanding of the characters and what their lives could be like, immediately. I think that the non-linear structure is a really powerful way of doing that.
DK: Absolutely. We have that expedition and introduction to the characters very early on as you say. But what we did have a problem with when reading the script and what I was questioned a lot about, was that these aren’t just flashbacks there are also many flash forwards. But after discussing it with Toby, the assistant director he said that it was a tragedy, so the audience are aware of something that the characters aren’t. And we know that in most tragedies the audience knows that something is about to happen, whereas the characters don’t, so that also was what allowed us to tell the story in such sequences.
W| By Sasha Shantel @SashaShantelVIP