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2011 Heartland Film FestivalRating: 4 of 5 yaps

An Ordinary Family

Family shenanigans run amok in the drama “An Ordinary Family,” a solid family drama from director Mike Akel.

Seth (Greg Wise) comes home for a family gathering and brings his partner “Seth (Greg Wise) comes home for a family gathering and brings his partner William (Chad Miller), whom virtually no one in his family knows about.

It takes Seth’s older brother, Thomas (Troy Schremmer), by surprise, and soon there’s conflict. Thomas is uncomfortable having to explain things to his children, and for good reason; Thomas is a priest.

The most effective thing about “Family” is its tone; it’s light and whimsical and doesn’t take itself too seriously. William is uninhibited, and Seth and William find out most of the rest of the family is, too, openly discussing their sex lives and making jokes with each other.

It’s a mostly relaxed atmosphere, so much so that it often feels improvised but never awkwardly so. The acting is natural and strong, and the characters are well-defined, bringing context without a lot of exposition; the main thing we know about any of the characters is that the family’s patriarch has passed away.

Even Thomas feels bad about his initial reaction, but cannot broach the subject mostly because Seth won’t let him.

Akel hits all the right notes, and his and Matt Patterson’s screenplay bleeds out small but telling revelations that shed light on the various relationships. There are also smaller arguments that broach conflicts of religion and forgiveness, and this brings a richness to the film that goes beyond the narrative.

“Family” is an interesting spin on the tell-the-family-I’m-gay drama — one that, if anything, takes the side of the disapproving family … or in this case, the disapproving family who isn’t disapproving, as some of the family questions why he just didn’t say something sooner.

“Family is a nice, airy change of pace — a relaxed, engaging and interesting film that avoids melodrama and hits all the right notes. It’s a fun dip in the family swimming pool, with characters we feel we’ve known all our lives, and we don’t even have to bring any bean dip.

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