This film was viewed at the 49th Seattle International Film Festival
Synopsis: Thomas, and his husband Oscar, are grappling with their changing perspectives of what their family is after having to return their foster son to his biological mother
The Mattachine Family is the feature film debut of Director Andy Vallentine alongside his husband Danny Vallentine who acted as the writer and producer of the film. While this is their first feature film, there are some strong indications that they have that it factor. I really appreciated some of the stylistic elements of Andy's direction, resulting in some interesting shots, adding to the focus and themes of the movie.
The film focuses on Thomas (Nico Tortorella) who is a professional photographer, and it is not lost on me that there are a solid mix of shots where the depth of field resembles that of an analog camera. The classic vignette look where the edges of the shot are blurred forces the viewer to focus even harder on the action at the center of the scene. In a film about loss, love and finding ways to move forward, the viewing incentive to literally look ahead and stay focused is a nice little motif thrown in. Not to mention, there's a consistent theme of Thomas not letting go of the past, like their son Arthur, who was returned to his biological mother, through montages of photos. Of course, as a photographer it makes sense! But overall it is a nice piece of character depth from writer Danny Vallentine.
Moreover, the first half of the film has some outrageous comedic elements from Danny's writing. I absolutely loved some of the laughs I got, love seeing young children say "Fuck" on camera, and thought that if the humor could've been more evenly written throughout the film, or matched the tone the film was attempting to establish, the final product would've benefitted greatly.
Ultimately, The Mattachine Family serves more as a launch point for the Vallentines than it does as a standalone feature. Yes, the prospective success is there and the Vallentines will certainly learn and grow, but the film itself is a bit of a bloated mess.
Throughout the film there are moments where Thomas will narrate and lend the viewer some information they might not otherwise be privy to. While this can be an effective vehicle for disseminating facts that are difficult to portray, it doesn't have the same effect here. Numerous lengthy narrations where Thomas' voice and emotion doesn't match the tone of the film results in an unbalanced emotional response to some of the hardest hitting background information on our characters. Tortorella's performance is a steady hand and quite good at times, but the dip in quality between Thomas on screen and Thomas narrating can be jarring at times.
Outside of Tortorella's performance, most of the cast brings in uneven performances that at best are decent, and at worst pull away from the heavy and sincere emotions of the film. However, I will say that Emily Hampshire and Carl Clemons-Hopkins are all-stars and I loved not only their characters but also just seeing them in general! I'm a huge fan of Schitt's Creek and Hacks so witnessing more of their performative ability is refreshing. The most powerful moment in the film, for me, is when Clemons-Hopkins' co-parenting character with his son Huck (hilariously self referred to as Fuck) is with Thomas on Christmas and Thomas truly realizes that he does in fact want to try and be a father again. It's a breathtakingly beautiful moment, one Thomas immortalizes with his camera, and should've been accented upon by the subsequent scenes.
Unfortunately the moment felt squandered which was an oft occurring theme where the emotional weight elevates a scene and could've been capitalized but instead we're given an unnecessary reprieve. More often than not this reprieve is a narration by Thomas which in the back half of the film almost feels inconsequential.
In its entirety The Mattachine Family felt overlong and overstuffed, which is unfortunate for a 99 minute runtime. Too much of Thomas' background broadened the emotional scope of the story and lessened the impact of the final defining moments of what his family truly consists of and means to him. But, I truly do believe that the Vallentines do have what it takes and are going to emerge from this victorious. I am thrilled to see what they come up with next because even if I didn't like this film, there were parts that proved to me that they inherently have got the goods.
One of Thomas' final narrations is an elated and beautiful moment of celebration of him finally getting the child he's always wanted. A new baby girl through a social worker allows him to establish the family he's always wanted, and achieve his long dream throughout the film of being a dad once again. It really is a highlight moment, one with the emotional substance to hit and stick with the viewer. Not only is Thomas celebrating the welcoming addition of a daughter, but he talks about the loves of his life and the story that intertwines them all together, finally describing how he will tell his child about all of this. Therefore the only logical choice here is the Gonna Tell My Kids IPA from Cloudburst Brewing!
This might be considered a homer pick given my shout it from the rooftops love of Cloudburst but this is new on their draft menu so I'm going to take the opportunity to hop on the hype train. Brewed from a medley of magical hops this hazy is brimming with tropical and citrus aroma to compliment a lovely color. There's a really fun balance of lemon, pineapple, and bitterness that is as complimenting as Thomas telling his friends "you look so good in this light" and snapping a few pics.
And now I'll take a quick second to congratulate Cloudburst on their recent win of the bronze for American style Pilsner at the World Beer Cup! Their brew Happy Little Clouds took home this esteemed prize and I think that'll be my next beverage! Congratulations to the whole Cloudburst team and this is a well deserved award for a great brewery with excellent beer!