Starring: Louis Morissette, Catherine Chabot, Émilie Bierre
Director: Ricardo Trogi
Running Time: 102 mins
The Guide To The Perfect Family (Le guide de la famille parfaite) is a Canadian film about a married couple whose overbearing approach to parenting begins to alienate their teenage daughter.
A captivating family drama with a dash of dark comedy thrown in, The Guide To The Perfect Family certainly has some very important things to say about the family dynamic and the role of parents, although it’s equally fair to say that the film often seems to go beyond its remit.
But what do I mean by that? Well, The Guide To The Perfect Family is a film that definitely evolves dramatically over the course of its runtime. It starts off as a bit of a wacky view of family life, but as we delve deeper into the dynamic of a dysfunctional family, things do become quite a bit more serious.
That plays to some of the film’s strengths, notably the performances, but it also weakens the movie in some regards, particularly in its use of humour and its less-than-staggering emotional depth.
On the plus side, all of the lead actors have a strong range that allows them to work well as the film evolves significantly from comedy-drama to full-blown drama. There’s a lot more to this film than simply being a bit quirky and funny, and the cast has more than enough talent to make that happen.
What’s more is that that transition in tone is achieved rather organically, as the story gradually moves into darker territory without ever relying on sudden paradigm shifts, but rather the real ebb and flow of a family dynamic.
With that said, however, The Guide To The Perfect Family almost takes its story too far at times, and while it certainly aims to provide a sobering view of the real challenges faced by everyday families and in particular overbearing parents, there’s often a disconnect between the events that conspire and the characters involved.
In effect, the movie doesn’t manage to transfer the motivations you’d expect from competent parents like these into the actions that they actually execute as parents. For a teenage girl, that kind of disconnect is perhaps more realistic, but the film occasionally feels a little disingenuous in the way that it portrays the parents’ behaviour, almost ignoring their true characters in order to get the story to where it needs to go.
As a result, The Guide To The Perfect Family isn’t quite the perfect film, lacking the earnest depth that would make a true family drama like this really hit home. It certainly succeeds with strong performances and a patient pace, but the film weakens as a it moves into more serious territory in its latter stages, and so that’s why I’m giving it a 7.0 overall.