SCREEN DIARY: FAMILY ROMANCE, LLC part of the BFI London Film Festival (08 OCT).


We caught up with Werner Herzog’s latest film FAMILY ROMANCE, LLC part of the DARE strand at the BFI London Film Festival (02 to 13 OCT). Here’s our RADIANT CIRCUS writeup.

SCREEN DIARY: FAMILY ROMANCE, LLC part of the BFI London Film Festival (08 OCT).
SCREEN DIARY: FAMILY ROMANCE, LLC part of the BFI London Film Festival (08 OCT).


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d. Werner Herzog, 2019 (USA, 89mins)

Whether it’s filling the gaps made by absent or embarrassing fathers, being the fall guy for an error at work, rekindling past glories or fanning the egos of the vainglorious, Werner Herzog’s latest is a film about replacement parts and whether or not a stand-in can be any kind of substitute.

FAMILY ROMANCE, LLC is a scripted drama about a real Tokyo business that provides actors to play important roles in their customers’ lives. The real business owner Ishii Yuichi appears here as himself, creating a complex hall of mirrors where reality is merely another role we play. The story focuses on one central series of interconnected relationships, a mother hiring a ‘father’ for her teenage daughter. This has perplexing repercussions as their worlds get rewired.

Everything that happens is explored through Herzog’s eternally curious camera, a joyous tumble of vignettes as we learn about the company, its customers and its context, all seemingly captured in the moment. Striking drone cinematography soars over Tokyo’s cherry blossoms whilst a handheld camera sees Herzog himself shooting in faux documentary style, literally getting in the faces of his own artificial alternates.

Unlike his real documentaries, Herzog remains resolutely out of frame, avoiding the pitfalls of an outsider’s voyeurism. FAMILY ROMANCE, LLC prefers to seek out what might be just around the corner for human work and relationships with a measured sincerity. Discoveries include a robot hotel (complete with check-in bots and tanks of ‘fish’) and a hedgehog café (which has to be sneezed to be believed).

Watching FAMILY ROMANCE, LLC is a lot like plunging your feet into one of those fish tank pedicures; it both soothes and gently nibbles away at your inner calm, leaving you with a mellow yet profound sense of unease. By carefully trading in the isolation and residual pain so many of its characters are seeking to anaesthetise – and largely avoiding any descent into melodrama (ignoring a rather perfunctory conclusion…) – FAMILY ROMANCE, LLC presents a vision of a heavily sedated WESTWORLD, where all our ‘news’ could easily be fake.


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LUNCHTIME FILM SOCIETY - Radiant Circus at the Bridewell Theatre - 22 Oct to 01 Nov 2019.

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