The Real Family: Heartbreaking Review


With his second feature film, Fabien Gorgeart delivers the intimate story of a family in the throes of change. The real family avoids many pitfalls specific to melodrama, without ever taking a position or judging its characters.

It all starts with pictures of family vacations. The mother, the father, the three children. A happy, united family, with a naive and luminous happiness such as one only sees in the cinema or in advertisements. But a family not quite like the others . And for good reason, the youngest Simon is not quite like his brothers. This is a six-year-old child placed in a foster family by Social Assistance since he was 18 months old. One fine day, her biological father asks to regain custody. For Anna, adoptive mother, it is a heartbreak she was not prepared for .

For this family melodrama, director Fabien Gorgeart plunges directly into his own memories. His mother had in fact looked after a child from eighteen months to six years old. And according to her words, she hadn’t fully understood the violence that the separation would be either.

Intelligently, the filmmaker gives us to see the daily life of this family apart . The links that are created naturally over the years, the complicity, but also the limits imposed by the legal framework of custody, illustrated by simple touches of realism. For example, where Simon’s brothers go to exercise in the tree climbing, the youngest has to be content with the swimming pool: no risky activity explains Anna. According to the wish of his biological father, Simon must also go to mass, recite his prayer in the evening. Out of step, again, with his entourage.

With endearing gentleness, Fabien Gorgeart leaves his camera at a distance. He stretches his plans, makes his characters breathe. And when the narrative shift appears, he has integrated us sufficiently into this family for us to feel the dilemmas.

By tackling such a subject, the story exposed itself to many pitfalls. The title could suggest a tearful pamphlet on the meaning of family worthy of a Facebook quote like “the real family is that of the heart”. Cleverly, The Real Family circumvents this trap brilliantly. So certainly, we will not avoid a few tearful sequences to tick the specifications. Notably a two-part separation scene that seems to unnecessarily stretch the drama to make sure to bring the audience to tears.

But the vast majority of the film strikes a delicate balance between heartfelt emotion and benevolent neutrality . Rather than trying to prove Anna right at all costs, the story does not hide its excesses from us. She is never filmed without empathy, however her faults are not erased. Better still, Fabien Gorgeart completely avoids the trap of making the biological father an antagonist. By not taking a position, The Real Family breaks out of a classic Manichean pattern.

And if the institutions are shown in a sometimes cold and distant light, there again they are not caricatured. We are faced with a system that does what it can, with the means it has and the best will. Moreover, the emotional drift of our main character perfectly illustrates that the best intentions are not always sufficient . While her emotional heartbreak borders on obsession, Anna would almost make us hope for a switch to a chilling family thriller in the tradition of Custody .

In addition to institutions, the filmmaker occasionally draws up the beginnings of a social struggle . On the one hand, the adoptive family who lives in a beautiful suburban area, who goes on a skiing holiday. On the other, the biological father in low-rental housing, worn out by a job that we guess is thankless, struggling to get days off even for Christmas. If the idea is never explained, it leaves frankly interesting tracks of reading.

From a purely formal point of view, The Real Family is a copy of a good student. Steadycam shots that occasionally energize the image. A dichotomy between flights in a sequence shot for moments of joy. The shots tightened to illustrate the psychological trap closing in on Anna and her family.

The music accompanies the story very well, although it sometimes comes to invade scenes of emotion that did not need embellishments. The writing of the dialogues often hits the mark thanks to natural, spontaneous replies . We could regret a sometimes too smooth technical work, but this refined, airy form aims above all to let an impressive cast breathe.

Headlining, Mélanie Thierry is impressive. From a complex role and on the wire – some would say role to Caesar – the actress delivers an admirable performance . She never pours into pathos, expresses everything with a look or a trembling of the lips. The film is his from start to finish . If there was still the shadow of a doubt about her immense talent after La Douleur or Ombline , she will put everyone in agreement here.

The rest of the cast isn’t left behind either. Lyes Salem brings a reassuring softness. For his part, Félix Moati contributes to the finesse of his character.