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Feature Review - Family Portrait

By midlandsmovies, May 25 2017 12:34PM

Family Portrait (2017)

Directed by Kelly Holmes

From Derbyshire filmmaker Kelly Holmes comes this short 14 minute film about time, inheritance and the changing dynamics in a family who have entered a precarious position.

Opening on a zoetrope of a horse as well as seeing a woman (Line of Duty’s Allison McKenzie as Margaret) reticent to sign a legal document, Family Portrait throws us straight into a world of upper-crust Britishness after the loss of her husband.

Filmed in a beautiful blue hue, the film has a gorgeous look of an older era with great costumes and the old stately home location carrying the ghosts of the past in its rooms and furniture.

After the death of said father, Margaret wants her daughter (In Plain Sight’s Kate McLaughlin as Louise) to maintain control of the family affairs whilst at the same time, the whole family have to tolerate the rigmarole of a family portrait.

The family surprisingly include the corpse of the father into the photograph, with the irony of the necessary “stillness” of the archaic process not lost on the film’s creators – “It would look more real”, says the photographer as he asks the family to pose in certain ways around the cadaver.

The dark tone of the screenplay by Nils Gustenhofen is sparse but gets straight to the major points and themes of the piece and allows enough ambiguity about death, possibly murder, and the future without explicitly stating in the dialogue. In addition, the score is at times gentle AND intense which gives a sense of dread as the story unfolds. This emotional music is expanded upon with ticking clocks and echoing footsteps which again show the passing of time and movement.

Time, image and movement are therefore the big themes Holmes has brought to the forefront throughout, with the rattling zoetrope alone emphasising the illusion of motion alongside the fixed nature of the images.

In summary, Family Portrait is a fantastic powerful short that captures the images of life from a bygone period. The film works on many levels and even displays its own themes via a sequence of images which show the progressive phases of motion during a family’s attempt to “move on”.

Midlands Movies Mike

For more information about Kelly Holmes and her films please go to www.kellyholmesdirector.com

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