Written and Directed by Richard Powell, Familiar is a look at passive aggression in the extreme. Starring Robert Nolan (Worm, Heir), Astrida Auza (Feed the Devil, Return) and Cat Hostick (Ejecta, Three’s a Crowd) we learn that in the Dodd household, all is not well.
Rather interestingly, John is the twin brother of Geoffrey Dodd from Worm. In the earlier 2010 film, Geoffrey is portrayed as being psychotic; so in no small way this mental problem could be said to be a “family tradition.”
Powell (Consumption, Worm) is a master at showing the less pleasant things in life, whether it is a relationship gone sour (Familiar), dissatisfaction about the job (Worm) or hidden desires (Heir) he skews the material into moving and dark glimpses into the human psyche.
In this tale, John Dodd is a man fed up with his relationship; a wife he detests and a daughter whom he refers to as a “parasite,” this leaves him feeling trapped and desperate. Nolan, as Dodd, gives an exceptional performance as a man driven into apparent madness. His internal dialogues and the increasing panic at being unable to escape are brilliant.
Auza plays the passive aggressive partner to perfection. The whole film actually depicts this mental problem with disturbing reality. The long silences at meal times, the body language and having to “pry” information out of the non-communicative spouse are all experiences suffered by those who have been in this type of relationship.
Dodd decides that he must rid himself of the wife who is driving him insane and begins to work on removing her via drugs after successfully using steroids to solve another problem with the woman. After the steroid episode John begins to notice that what he thought was an internal dialogue is, in fact, more of a dictatorial rant.
The man’s battle then becomes focused on his sanity and the loss of control he believes has occurred. Powell’s tale feels like a Henry James plot. Think A Turn of the Screw here, and all the elements of the film click neatly into place like well crafted puzzle pieces. By the end we ask ourselves just how much of what happens is in John’s mind and how much may be real.
Cinematographer Michael Jari Davidson once again shows the mastery of light and shadow which makes his work so brilliant. The contrasts of crisp clear camera work with the element of darkness applied are perfect as in his other films.
Familiar is available on iTunes right now and this is a short film not to be missed. Easily as powerful as any of Powell’s other films, but the title is evocative of the feeling one gets when watching the movie. Anyone who has been in a marriage like this empathizes with John Dodd immediately and the whole thing does indeed feel familiar. A 5 out of 5 stars for an excellent snapshot of the madness behind passive aggression.
29 May 2015