Don Palathara’s ‘Family’ is a wonderfully sinister drama about conforming to one’s community

Posted on February 13, 2023


Spoilers ahead…

Ingmar Bergman famously struggled with “the silence of God,” and the still camera appears to extend that mute-witness aspect of God, someone who watches over this tranquil community but neither helps the good nor punishes the bad

don palathara family

The title of Don Palathara’s new film, which had its world premiere at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam this year, is a simple word, a heartwarming word: family. It’s the kind of word you’d use to describe the bunch of people, in this small village, who gather to haul out a cow that has fallen into a ditch. You’d say the community has come together as a “family”. But an early scene shows us that the word can be something sinister, too. During a theatrical wedding ritual, a barber is assigned to spruce up the groom. Under normal circumstances, this would just mean giving a shave or a facial. But here, there’s something the barber needs to do first. He needs to ask everyone gathered whether they give him permission to beautify the groom. He asks the people on the left side of the hall, and then he asks those on the right side. And only when everyone says “yes” does he begin to do his job. 

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