“Family Members” (“Los miembros de la family”)
Grief, Romance and Coming of Age
“Family Members” is a mix of bereavement drama, romantic comedy, and a coming-of-age story. Siblings Gilda (Laila Maltz) and Lucas (Tomás Wicz) spend the night in their deceased mother’s house by the seaside. They want to fulfill her final, cryptic wish: that her dismembered hand be tossed into the sea. The house has been foreclosed, but they break in any way and stay there illegally. Their plans to return to Buenos Aires, are quickly changed by a bus strike, leaving the two of them stranded with each other and forcing them to deal with their unresolved issues.
Gilda and Lucas don’t talk much. When Gilda asks him if he loves her, he spits his toothpaste in her face. The film doesn’t want to tell us much else about the brother-sister relationship right away and instead cultivate a certain mood that reflects the harsh reality of grief.
The beach here is rarely picturesque; a permanent cloud covers the sky. The town’s glory is gone and nothing in the house works — they even have to go the toilet outside. Lucas works out, goes for runs, and avoids talking to his sister while she sends nude pictures of herself to her boyfriend, patiently waiting for the bus strike to end.
“Family Members” reflects the way the world feels off-balance when confronted with grief. This point is made explicitly when Lucas is told that the entire world we live in might be a computer simulation. That might also explain why fitness fanatic Guido (Alejandro Russek), who also trains by the beach, is interested in him. The seventeen-year-old boy has no idea how to deal with the kindness of this simpler, older man, leading him to act out in highly erratic ways. Meanwhile, Gilda has a different approach to reality. She relies on chakra stones and tarot cards. Yet, while Lucas’ storyline dovetails together nicely with his belief system — including a hilarious representation of men finally opening up to one another — Gilda’s goes nowhere, relying on the anti-conflict conceit of the nice boyfriend back home.
We have no reason to invest in these characters, especially when Lucas’ life is given so much extra weight, leaving Gilda almost nothing. While we do find out about Gilda’s turbulent life before mother died, this is all told and not shown. Therefore, the two of them, although they argue a little, don’t really contrast and conflict with each other. Director Mateo Bendesky seems more interested in humorous incidents than creating something that jumps off the screen.