Saturday, January 08, 2011
From the Vault: My Family, Mi Familia
At its outset, My Family, Mi Familia seems set on spinning a yarn of mythic proportions, but an early line dismisses that notion and the film settles in as a warm, joyous slice-of-life.
My Family focuses on three generations of a proud Mexican family that settle in east Los Angeles. Directed and co-written by Gregory Nava (with Anna Thomas), My Family provides a great movie experience even if it goes slightly slack toward the end and the storylines sometimes fall into typical patterns. (Has there ever been a film with a character who becomes a priest or nun who doesn't eventually leave the order?)
That aside, My Family uses a mostly unknown cast (with the exceptions of Jimmy Smits, Edward James Olmos and Esai Morales, who finally gets his first really good role since making an impression as Ritchie Valens' brother in 1987's La Bamba) to great effect in telling its story of family crises and celebrations.
In addition to Morales' work, Jacob Vargas and Eduardo Lopez Rojas provide fine performances as the younger and older versions of the Sanchez family patriarch as does Jenny Gago as the family's mother in her later years.
Nava finds his best asset in the work of cinematographer Edward Lachman, who bathes every scene in just the right tone and color, making the audience feel as if they're surrounded by a comforting glow.
For quite a while, the story and the look of My Family so entrance the viewer that you believe the film will never make a misstep, but alas it does in the third section of the film when the most standard elements come into play and the film overstays its welcome.
Still, most of it is so good that it hardly matters.