Julie Delpy has become renowned in this country for her take on the romance that encompasses a European lifestyle.
Her films Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and 2013’s Before Midnight, with which she stars alongside Ethan Hawke, as well as her Two Days… series have made her a household name for any avid international film viewers, and for a lot of audiences, she can do little wrong with the approach to romance and comedy that she offers. However, her 2011 film Le Skylab, a piece she wrote, directed and starred in, veers away from the common ground of a man and woman’s relationship, and instead focuses on a more personal note: family relations.
Set in the summer of 1979, Le Skylab focuses on a large French family, which spreads over three generations, and the interweaving relationships that they share with one another. With a large focus on the diversity within families, the confusing adolescent periods that all youths experience, and set at the exact time when the American space station “Skylab” was destined to fall to Earth, there is a lot going on with this film to make it an enjoyable one on all accounts.
…there were constant cringingly funny moments…
Strangely enough, despite the film being credited as a comedy, there were not many laugh-out-loud moments throughout. Certain aspects, such as the ridiculous, sometimes awkward way that teenagers attempt to “be cool” were there, and served up laughter without question. As well there were constant cringingly funny moments, when children did their utmost to show off, whether it is by swearing or playing with a lamb’s remains. But for two hours, they were few and far between.
Which was great!
…blood is thicker than water…
The film instead brings titters of laughter, in order to mask the grave tension that constantly builds throughout a family whom, if not related, would most certainly hate one another. There is constant bickering over left and right wing politics in a scene where the climax was a death threat to a spouse’s partner. Then there is the attacking of a man’s wife, by his brother, which leads to a sobbing breakdown was an intriguing look into family standings, and how blood is thicker than water. And constantly throughout, there are constant points which show, although they may appear older, the adults have the exact same way of handling situations as their children do.
There were, however, some times when the film let itself down. Cheap, easy exposition was used to show characters’ personality or financial standings. And there are certain characters, such as the crazed uncle on “suicide watch”, were leaning a little bit too close to cliché. Nonetheless, each character has his or her little story, such as a little boy with feminine tendencies that are despised by his father, which in itself could be a wonderful piece of invigorating cinema. However, the subtle undertones will, for now, suffice.
…an honest portrayal of what families really mean to one another…
Le Skylab is obviously a very personal film for Julie Delpy; a guess that she has included a lot of details from her own experiences growing up would not be far off of the truth. As such, she has delivered a fantastic ensemble piece, where there are no overriding character arcs, but instead there is an honest portrayal of what families really mean to one another. This was not a film that needed to make audiences roll around in the aisles with laughter. This was a film that simply shows how the inner-politics of a large family works, and how even though everything might possibly go wrong within, they will still have one another in the end.