Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Tiny indie 'Family Obligations' includes charm, heart and lots of hope

Blink fast or you might miss "Family Obligations," a small independent sparkler now in streaming mode after making some noise during at least a trio of film festivals.

It opens at a sparsely attended church service, where a man called Peter (Chris Mollica) slowly rises up to talk at his father's funeral. No such luck! When our Pete reaches into his pocket, the piece of paper he pulls out is totally blank, likely signifying how much he cared for dear ol' Dad.

Next up are a humorously awkward meeting with an urn of ashes (thanks to an equally droll burial director), soon followed by preparations to sell the house Peter grew up in and the slew of memories that entails.

Certainly there's much more, not the least of which amounts to a life-changing phone call ultimately leading to the sickly, cranky and immensely entertaining Uncle Frank (Frank Failla) re-entering Peter's suddenly hectic life.

A single mother (Chandler Rosenthal) living a few doors down the hall might bring major changes, too, but let's leave that possibility for viewers to decide.

Just don't spend too much time worrying about the film's production values, or even some key conversations in which the actors might be reading dialogue off camera. Concentrate more on the movie's personal values, and you might agree that this first-time effort from writer/director Kenneth R. Frank nicely gets it done despite only an apparent eight-day shooting schedule.

Not rated (with little, if anything, to offend anyone); 1:23; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

(This is one in an intermittent series of reviews, featuring buzz-worthy films currently playing the festival circuit, soon to be released, or ready to stream. "Family Obligations" was an official selection of the Austin Film Festival, and was voted Best Feature Film at the Long Island International Film Festival, the Erie International Film Festival, and the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival. It is available for viewing now on Amazon Prime, with AppleTV, Roku and a few other services expected to add it soon.) 

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