Let’s talk about families in films

The german socialist philosopher, Friedrich Engels, argued that the family is an institution created by capitalism, and that children inherit from the father their wealth, and that women are always relegated to the background, becoming a servant and a simple instrument of reproduction. In today's Western reality, this panorama has changed almost completely, with an increase in the importance of the figure of women in society, which has also affected the family level, in which the paternal figure has come to equate with the maternal and have begun to share work that was previously only imagined for women.

This development of even heterosexual marriages seems, however, not to have reached the world of Hollywood. In a large number of American films, above all, the prototype of the housewife and caretaker of her children continues to be perpetuated, she watches over family security while her husband earns money. And although, in many cases, this fact continues to be so, in many other films the situation has changed variably, producing thousands of combinations; the mother being the one providing, both a child of age... Incredibly, and fortunately, these combinations along with many other, are beginning to appear on the big screen, either in the hands of European or independent cinema and, rarely, the Hollywood.

We are going to make a compendium of "alternative" films that have gone a step further and have entered a world of different or "more real" families.

20th Century Women (2016) introduces Dorothea (Annette Bening), a sixty-year-old single mother in the 1970s who faces a world of change trying to teach her teenager the values of love and freedom, at the same time as she tries to find herself. To try to educate her son, she has the help of Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a young girl who has been diagnosed with spinal cancer and who lives in a room she has rented in the house; of William (Billy Crudup) a handyman also housed in his house that escaped of the hippie movement that took to its first love and of Julie (Elle Fanning), the provocative friend of its son who sleeps every night with him because it does not like sleep alone.

This curious film shows a kind of "family" (it would be more appropriate to call it commune) which id uncommon today, but that became fashionable in the 60s and 70s thanks to the hippie and egalitarian movement. In Europe, after the severe economic crisis a few years ago, many families have been forced to rent, permanently, or for vacation periods, parts of their house in order to be able to pay the real estate rent. In big cities in Japan, China and in the Big Apple, the catastrophic rents have forced people to make real tricks to have a minimum space to live in.

But this is not the only different aspect of the film, it also allows the viewer to see in a very intuitive and realistic way the emotions and relationships that swell the hearts of the components of this family group, and that forms the bonds between people. This is generally never seen in Hollywood commercial films. Feelings of family affection are always frivolous to treat family members (other than the protagonist) as mere secondary characters, as a backdrop that enclaves the protagonist in a concrete environment, but in real life this is not the case.


In this same line of deepening and realistically reproducing the feelings between the components of a family, the Spanish film Summer of 1993 (2017), is nominated for the Best Non-Hispanic Film Award at the upcoming Oscars. The film analyzes the summer months experienced by Frida, a six-year-old girl who has just lost her parents due to AIDS and who must redo her life completely by moving to the country with her uncles and her little cousin. The couple does everything they can because the girl adapts and floods with affection and tenderness, but it is not so easy to overcome such an significant loss. In this case, this new family made up of two uncles, the cousin and the girl protagonist shows the viewers that it is possible to start again at such an early age, to develop new feelings and create a strong family nucleus by completely changing the components.

Another type of families that have recently become more frequently represented in Hollywood, are those made up of same-sex couples and their children. Whether they are biological, or adoptive as in the movie The kids are all right (2010), with an incredible Julianne Moore and Annette Bening at the head, who demonstrate in a simple but charming way, the everyday life of a homosexual family where the children decide to look for their biological father (the owner of the semen which they inseminated the character of Moore). At the other end we have characters like Michel and Cam, the gay marriage of the famous Modern Family series, a couple who adopted a Vietnamese girl and educate their image and likeness, creating some of the best gags on television today.


Of course there are many other forms of family nuclei, which will gradually appear more and more on American screens and will help normalize these increasingly common situations.