Mom, Dad, and the kids get a thorough working-over in TV Families, a remarkable collection of seven independent films by different directors. TV Families offers vivid, sometimes funny, frequently harrowing fictional portraits of domestic life.
In Tamara Jenkins' Family Remains a short-film award winner at last year's Sundance Film Festival a fractured family is reunited when the dad comes home in a coffin. The beautifully low-key Nightride, directed by Andrew Garrison, follows a teenage boy and his uncle on an aimless, melancholy car trip that is haunted by their memories of the boy's father the uncle's brother now dead. By contrast, Jon Moritsugu's Terminal, USA a takeoff on American sitcoms is intentionally ugly and crude: It focuses on a squabbling, drug-taking Asian-American clan that gives new meaning to the term dysfunctional.
But the best of the lot may be Todd Haynes' Dottie Gets Spanked in which a little boy who idolizes a Lucille Ball-like sitcom actress incurs the contempt of his father (Adam Arkin), who thinks his boy may be turning into a sissy. Director Haynes captures the way preadolescent fantasies of sex and power can become nightmares of anxiety. Father Knows Best this ain't.