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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

The Mattachine Family **


Starring: Nico Tortorella, Juan Pablo de Pace, Emily Hampshire, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Heather Matarazzo

Director: Andy Vallentine

Country: USA

UK Distributor: Peccadillo Pictures

 

Thomas (Tortorella) and Oscar (de Pace) have seemingly the perfect relationship, deeply in love with one another. Having agreed to take in their first foster child, their feelings are deeply tested when the boy is returned to his birth mother, despite the loving home they had created temporarily for him. And when the question of fatherhood for real arises, the couple’s opinions diverge.


The film is underpinned by a very literary narration from Thomas, who is also a photographer and peppers the story with tastefully composed pictures from his life. He talks of his chosen family - his closest friends - whom he refers to as The Mattachine Family. But though the title suggests an ensemble drama, it’s really just Thomas’ inner monologue played out through duologues with friend after friend after stranger.


Unfortunately, Thomas is a fairly flat character, whose only defining feature is his yearning for fatherhood. Devoid of any real quirks, it’s hard to define anything except his blandness, while his friends are all varying shades of beige. The problem is that the film centres around a group of invariably nice people, who are genuinely nice to each other and live very nice lives. And so the result is, predictably, just... nice. The narrative is lacking conflict and the characters are pretty much unflawed. So when you’re watching a drama about a cast of totally non-offensive millennials, where’s the fun in that?


There is an interesting film to be made about same-sex foster parenting, for sure, but this is not that film. Everything is delectably middle-class, including the birth mother and the child’s “difficult background”. Rose-tinted and saccharine sweet, its hyper-realistic style is tainted by a drenching of idealised nostalgia that leaves this contemplative mumblecore somewhat lacking any real substance.

 

UK Release: Out now on VOD, released by Peccadillo Pictures

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