'Family Lies' by Jeannie Chua - The LaSalle Show '09

Very often, turning a screenplay into a film may not need too much dramatization to bring out the essence. A moment of silence, a short exchange of glances, a wordless utterance could do the job better for that is often how we operate in the comfort zone of family life. In order words, ‘Family Lies’, could have been more digestible if we let the characters speak for themselves more than their lines.

‘Family Lies’ is about how a father and son break down their mutual barriers over the father’s contraction of a disease. Chet, the son is the typical polished, dashing, idealistic gem of an young man you would usually see in telco ads where mum makes long distance calls to her precious son studying overseas. The Dad is physically typical but has a laughable streak in all that crankiness. Mother is just another concerned, tender-looking figure of comfort who has the unfortunate job of trying to bridge the two.

From the point of his return, he is concerned yet feels handicapped by the thorny state of communication between father and son. Over a quiet family dinner, little is exchanged except for what is necessary. Poor mothers, they always get stuck in between everyone else, trying to soften the blows. Then, a sudden stimulus is introduced – the family cat goes missing. It galvanizes the family into unified action. As expected, it gives father and son a chance to join hands. Before it slips into another family-themed cliché, the plot actually meanders to keep the audience’s minds busy.

Anyone who has a typically stubborn, old-fashioned, authoritative father would know how hard it is to remove his leopard spots. It thus needs more convincing of how the father could suddenly lower his crusty defences. Mum is also a bit of a surprise depending on whether she intentionally set up the two men in the house. It reminds me of TV ads in which mums always fish out magical household tricks. So in the end, it turns out that the cat came back and father and son buried some stray cat that died on their car journey. So dad, mum and son finish off happy and the audience finally gets to enjoy the jazz that’s been piped in right from the start – honestly an odd combination with the narrative.

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