Eye For Film >> Movies >> Relative Madness (2009) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
What does it mean to have a normal family, to lead a normal life? Ben is a thoughtful, intelligent man, frustrated with his job as a hospital porter but not short of opinions or ideas. The trouble is, his ideas don't always fit other people's expectations. Past conflicts with his parents and an investigation by social services mean that the only way he is now able to parent his daughter Louisa is by sharing a house with her mother, despite the fact that the couple's romantic relationship ended 13 years ago, despite the fact he has a girlfriend who lives elsewhere. The mother, Diane - still legally his wife - would prefer to have her own space, but accepts the situation. This documentary lets Ben and Louisa tell their side of the story.
There are clearly some real problems for this family. They don't have much money. The house is a mess and they're disorganised about things like cooking, meaning that Louisa doesn't always get regular meals. Like any teenager, she likes to push the envelope, telling her dad that she wants "to be just like Mötley Crüe", anxious to turn 16 so she can smoke and get tattoos, unwilling to listen to his cautionary advice about drugs. But in other ways she seems remarkably well adjusted. She values being a child and using her imagination. She's not interested in primping and sexualising herself. She seems confident and happy, and though she sometimes bitches about her dad, they clearly care for each other.
This is a film that sets out to challenge the way families like Ben and Louisa's are perceived. The trouble is that it doesn't really have much of an argument to make. Despite the interest of social services, this family doesn't seem to have a great deal wrong with it in comparison to many; and Ben's protests against the social order wouldn't seem out of place in a middle class newspaper column, at least if one removed the references to heavy metal. As such, the film comes across less as a challenging portrait of controversial circumstances and more simply as a slice-of-life drama. With engaging subjects, it's still interesting, but it's not really anything remarkable.Reviewed on: 13 Jun 2010