Eye For Film >> Movies >> Family Romance LLC (None) Film Review
Family Romance LLC
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Werner Herzog has long had an interest in the interplay between fact and fiction and an individual's personal interpretation of those entities, with films including Cave Of Forgotten Dreams and Encounters At The End Of The World often revealing unexpected truths about the participants that go beyond the surface, while others like the tragic Grizzly Man highlight the folly of allowing belief to triumph over empirical evidence.
All of which means a company like Family Romance LLC - a real-life Japanese firm that specialises in hiring out people to pretend to be family members - is the perfect venture around which Herzog constructs a narrative to explore some of the things that make the modern world tick. Yorgos Lanthimos fans might remember he took on a similar concept with Alps, but Herzog's approach is, unsurprisingly, considerably more ruminative and less downbeat.
Yuichi Ishii is the boss of the film and plays a version of himself here in scenarios which, though they have the feel and look of a documentary and represent the sort of thing he does in his job, are fully scripted using actors as clients. The situations highlight a sense of existential loneliness in the modern world that might come with specifically Japanese trappings but which many elsewhere will recognise the emotional truth of. So Ishii pretends to be the long-absent father of 12-year-old Mahiro in one series of encounters, while one of his employees steps into the shoes of an alcoholic father as a stand-in at a daughter's wedding.
We see the way fakery has become stitched into everyday life and while a robot hotel, complete with uncanny valley check-in assistants and robotic fish might give us pause for thought, the way we manipulate selfies to add hearts or make ourselves look better has become almost commonplace. Herzog might score one or two culturally cheap laughs in an early bullet train scenario, but, on the whole, he finds rich territory as he digs around at the distinction between the real and the constructed. We know the dragon in the machine presenting us with our 'fortune' is mechanical even with its smooth moves, but that doesn't stop people tying the resultant fortunes to a sort of shrine for good luck. And what about human "oracles"? Are they any more real than that dragon in a box?
Speaking about Mahiro (Mahiro Tanimoto), Ishii tells her mother (Miki Fujimaki): "We're both lying to each other", getting at the nub of the tiny but manifold fictions we all create in our own lives in order to rub along with or please others. Herzog hints at the dangers here as well as we happily conflate the real and the fake. "I'm happy I've got a friend I can trust," the mother tells him, as though unaware she's got him under contract. We might start off by thinking we are looking at Japanese scenarios that could never be replicated elsewhere but, by degrees, Herzog ends up asking us to look beyond that - at ourselves.Reviewed on: 16 Jul 2020
If you like this, try:F For Fake