Wednesday, 2 February 2011

2010 in Review: Filial Love

The entirety of Conviction depends on us believing that Betty Anne Waters is so devoted to her brother that she spend her life studying to get him out of prison. In theory, it seems like something any sibling would do, but it’s a special sort of devotion and though Sam Rockwell’s charisma suggests that he’s the type of rebel that people want to help I hate that Goldwyn does a disservice to his story by providing us with a stronger clarification for that arc. The occasional flashbacks touching on them as children don’t suffice, although I give him (grudging) credit for it. And, it’s not that he errs in not devoting enough time to it – it’s just one of the (many) ways that Conviction doesn’t sell itself as a cinematic entity. Compare that relationship to Becca and Izzy in Rabbit Hole. That relationship isn’t at the forefront of the film, but in two short scenes Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell give us the strengths and weaknesses in that liaison – of course, buoyed by the good work being done by Blanchard and Kidman (more on Tammy). Filial love is probably a disingenuous title for this article, though I’d intimate that in any sort of rapport between siblings could be traced back to filial love – let’s examine 2010’s crop.

One of the singular deficiencies in Animal Kingdom, which I’m even wary of calling an actual deficiency, is the relationship that J’s mother had with her siblings and mother. “Mum kept me away from her family” is striking in its vagueness, and Janine’s bit on why they stopped talking is obviously a smokescreen for something else – but what? I often found myself thinking what sort of a relationship she had with her brothers. It’s a bit difficult to extrapolate anything close to love among the three brothers. Craig, in his sincerity, grieves for Baz – but Baz isn’t a brother. And in that subdued scene where Darren and Pope prepare for the funeral the dejectedness seems less about grief for Craig and more of a general discontent with their lives. Aaron Johnson’s Graham – the eponymous Greatest of his film – dies and leaves a grieving family, and a wayward brother, and I feel a bit awful for not even mentioning Johnny Simmons as a semi-finalist for his work here. He’s still an actor learning the ways, but it’s interesting watching the way he decides to show grief for his brother.
Thandie Newton is all sorts of fabulous in For Colored Girls, and there’s an arc where she sees her sister (Tessa Thompson) heading down the same path as she did. Newton has always had a natural prickliness in her performances and that makes her work even more striking here as she responds not with sympathy but with a laugh at a key moment in the narrative. It’s the sort of bottling of emotions that defines most of the women in For Colored Girls, but Newton’s Tangie is especially dangerous because these emotions burst out at the strangest points. In a way, that way in which she cares for her sister by not caring is indicative of Dicky and Micky in The Fighter. I keep getting the urge to give The Fighter a new and more interesting title (The Family, Brothers) and the second one especially would suffice here. It’s not incidental that the very first image of the film is Dicky and Micky together, since it’s that relationship that functions as an impetus for every other plotpoint in the film. And by omission you could probably say the same of the sisterly rapport between Anne-Marie Duff and Kristin Scott Thomas in Nowhere Boy. It’s difficult to deny that the two women are golden opposite each other, and it’s wrong to hope they had more scenes to do so – it’s not their story. But Mimi’s attitude towards Julia (and by extension John) is a significant arc of the story.
One of my favourite running arcs in Scott Pilgrim vs the World is those phone calls Stacey makes to Scott in his lowest points. I still don’t buy Stacy as Scott’s little sister – but the chemistry between Kendrick and Cera sell what should be an example of a terrible sibling relationship, but in actuality is not really. And, I sort of don’t want to say that Bertie and Edward have an awful relationship in The King’s Speech though that significant moment at Edward’s party where Pearce so wonderfully imitates his stutter is almost horrific – not because of its teasing way, but because it’s so glibly done – as if it’s the usual way to treat Bertie (wish that arc could have been examined more). And then I think of The Kids Are All Right. Hutcherson and Wasikowska are so obviously on the same wavelength – another example of how brilliant this cast is. It’s difficult for me not to call them my favourite sibling relationship of the year even though they have few actual scenes together – those moments when they’ll catch each others’ eye across the table for a slight roll of the eyes underscores – perfectly, and promptly – that tenuous thing called filial love.
Any sibling pairings stood out as significant for you in 2010?


okinawaassault said...

The first filial relationship that came to mind was Greenberg, where only one of the brothers was mostly on screen and their relationship is mostly portrayed in tatters/over the phone.

And the Fighter. The scene where one of the sisters explain which are the Eklunds and the Wards. And how they accept each other and their hostility's directed towards outsiders instead.

And Dakota and Riley in The Runaways, who've had high times with each other and can feel each other's emotions so well.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Oh, love that moment you point out in The Fighter. So many nice little moments there, that aren't necessarily serving the main arc.