It's a little surprising that the British distributors of Argentinian family-chronicle Familia Rodante are releasing it under the original Spanish-language title, rather than the translation 'Rolling Family.' Because although writer-director Trapero does undoubtedly have some allegorical and political ambitions in mind, his film is nothing of not engaging and accessible from start to finish – this certainly isn't the kind of feature appealing only to those with a taste for subtitled, "foreign" arthouse fare, who were the main audiences for his previous, somewhat dour, releases Crane World and El Bonaerense.
Much less abrasive and depressing than the latter – Bonaerense was an expose of Buenos Aires' hopelessly-inadequate police service – Familia Rodante is the sprawling tale of 84-year-old Emilia (Graciana Chironi) and her extended Buenos Aires clan. When she receives word that her niece is to be married in the far-off northern city of Misiones, and that she herself is to be Matron of Honour, the feisty matriarch insists that as many relatives as possible accompany her on the 1,200-mile return trip. This means that her long-suffering son Oscar (Bernardo Forteza) has to cram a dozen passengers into his rickety old motor-home – and, once on the road, cope with all manner of fights, diversions and mechanical problems.
There aren't, to be honest, a great many surprises en route, but Trapero mercifully resists the material's many potential detours into sentiment and melodrama. Star of the show is Chironi, very much front-and-centre as Emilia – the actress is actually Trapero's own grandmother, and as well as making some subtle points about family, maturity and the state of Argentina, it also works very well as a heartfelt, elaborately autobiographical tribute/farewell to a beloved relative. Familia Rodante nimbly dramatises the clash between old ways and new, making this a socially-conscious road movie with genuine texture and warmth – and going some way to justifying the glowing tributes paid to Trapero during last month's rather sketchy South Bank Show on the current resurgence in Argentine cinema.
31st October, 2005
(expansion, for Tribune magazine, of original review written 27th May)
FAMILIA RODANTE : [7/10] : aka Rolling Family : Argentina 2004 : Pablo TRAPERO : 103 mins
seen at Odeon cinema, Izola (Slovenia), 27th May 2005 – during the 'Kino-Otok' Izola Film Festival