EW Staff
May 08, 1998 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Ken Loach’s early drama Family Life plays like a warm-up exercise for his 1994 film Ladybird, Ladybird, in which a mentally unstable woman is tormented by ruthlessly bureaucratic social workers. Here, the psychologically dubious Janice (Ratcliff) must contend not only with various misguided health-care professionals, but with her domineering, abusive parents. Like all of Loach’s films, it’s brilliantly acted (where do he and Mike Leigh find these terrific, obscure thespians?) and keenly observed, but it can be less than subtle. When Janice is asked why she smashed her dad’s prized clock, she unironically explains that she was ”killing time.” Right, and she threw it out the window ’cause she wanted to see time fly. B-

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