UK Release Date: 11th June 2018
Runtime: 72 minutes
Director: Suzuya Bobo
Writer: Suzuya Bobo, James Kaelan
Starring: Megan Boone, Derek Cecil, Larry Bryggman, Alison Fraser
Synopsis: When a woman brings her new partner home to meet her father and stepmother, she triggers a wave of revelations that shakes the entire family to its core.
Late last year, a star-studded cast was unable to rescue The Dinner from becoming about as dull a film as you can possibly imagine about a group of people stuck in a room together, nursing a selection of secrets. In that same vein, but without any more success, is the new VOD drama Funny Games. Like the aforementioned other movie, it focuses squarely on its ensemble of characters and seldom deviates from the powder keg environment of an awkward dinner. The Dinner was two hours long and so, if nothing else, we can thank writer-director Suzuya Bobo for the brevity of this one.
We start with Sloane (Megan Boone) and Barrett (Derek Cecil), who are heading to the former’s childhood home for the inevitably tense first meeting with her father. Roan (Larry Bryggman) is a military veteran and a classic ‘back when men were men’ type, initiating Barrett into his world with a hunting trip to shoot down quail in the nearby countryside. Meanwhile, Sloane needles her new stepmum Kathryn (Alison Fraser) – a kindly woman who seems to have serious pent-up aggression lurking beneath her smiling exterior.
This is the setup for the fractured family dynamic, which only intensifies as the film moves towards its tense dinner scene centrepiece. Unfortunately, Family Games never creates much intrigue around its characters. The brief running time, while something of a blessing, also leaves very little time to establish character, giving the actors very little to do. Only Boone and Fraser really get the chance to make an impression in the leaden, undramatic first act, and that’s largely because they’re simply playing archetypes. The same is true of Larry Bryggman, who sleepwalks through the role that has much of the dramatic meat.
Put simply, Funny Games fails to make its subjects interesting. If this is a family unit that’s going to be torn apart by secrets and lies spread over the course of years, the movie has to make us care about that family. We have to become invested in them as loving relatives, or hate them so much that we want to see their deceit catch up with them. Bobo’s film is responsible for the worst crime possible – it induces pure ambivalence.
There’s clearly the gem of something potentially interesting lurking within Family Games, but there’s nothing in the story it tells to justify recommending it. The family dynamic at play is far from well-defined and the ultimate revelations give way to a head-scratcher of a finale. Brevity might well be the soul of wit in most cases, but this is a rare example a of a movie that could’ve done with an extra 20 minutes to tell its story with a little more coherence.
Pop or Poop?
Family Games is precisely the sort of movie that should benefit from a short running time, allowing for a tight narrative focus. Unfortunately, it’s also a film that lacks any real characterisation and, as a result, lends very little weight to its supposedly seismic central revelations.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Family Games is available on various VOD platforms in the UK now.