The moving story of Janice whose parents thought they were doing the right thing by encouraging her to become like them when she was an adult.
London, 1970. Janice, 18, prostrate in the underground, is brought back to her home by the police. She reveals that she is pregnant to her parents, old games and coercive, who force her to have an abortion and keep blaming her for her bad behavior. They make him consult Doctor Donaldson, quickly ousted by the board of directors of the hospital which does not approve of his innovative methods. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Janice is interned in a psychiatric hospital where her mental health will deteriorate irreparably.
Family Life, released in 1971, is the adaptation, by its author, David Mercer, of In Two Minds (1967), one of some thirty plays that he wrote, especially for television, from 1951 until his death in 1980. We also owe him a few screenplays, including those of two major films, Morgan (Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment, Karel Reisz, 1966), Best Screenplay Award at the BAFTA Awards, and Providence (Alain Resnais, 1977), César Award for Best Original Screenplay.
In Two Minds is part of a current, antipsychiatry, a questioning of traditional psychiatry, born in the USA in the 60s in reaction to a treatment of mental illnesses by chemistry, electroshock, even by surgery with lobotomy and , most often, by internment, confinement of the sick in their madness, sometimes in inhuman conditions, such as those denounced by Frederick Wiseman in his terrifying documentary, Titicut Follies (1967). This questioning was supported by several psychiatrists in the United Kingdom, in particular by RD Laing, author of several works insisting on the role of the company and the family on the development of the “madness”, in particular Sanity and Madness in the Family, published in 1964, co-authored with psychoanalyst Aaron Esterson.
Family Life is Ken Loach’s third feature film, after Poor Cow, in 1967 (published in 2012 in the Ken Loach set: Family Life + Poor Cow), and Kes, in 1969. He had previously, in 1967, filmed In Two Minds, one of the ten pieces which BBC1 had commissioned him to produce in the box The Wednesday Play.
Disgusting and unchristian!
Family Life Much of its interest derives from the quality of the script and dialogues by David Mercer who has, on several occasions, been interested in psychiatry. Piece by piece, he analyzes the inexorable mechanism that will end up destroying Janice: the relentlessness of the parents to impose their normality on her, to make her feel guilty, a treatment her older sister had had the strength to resist until she ‘she leaves the family nucleus, aggravated by infantilization and the lack of listening to caregivers. A London psychiatrist told me he had organized a screening of Family Lifeto promote sector psychiatry (outside the hospital) to families in the sensitive area of South Oxey. In Watford.
The realism of the directing is reinforced by the use of non-professional, well-directed actors in the roles of Janice and her mother. Sandy Ratcliff, the interpreter of Janice, after this first appearance in front of the camera, will make a long career in television, in particular by going up, the time of 292 episodes, on board the train Eastenders, the interminable soap opera still on track after… 8,025 episodes!
Family Life was nowhere to be found for years. We therefore welcome the initiative of Doriane Films to reissue it, on the fiftieth anniversary of its release, after restoration, and accompanied by Obviously I love you, a fictional documentary on The Coral, the “place of life” where Claude Sigala receives mental patients outside the hospital.
Family Life (104 minutes) and its generous extras (192 minutes) fit on a DVD-5 and DVD-9 housed in a digipack.
The animated and musical menu offers the choice between the original version, in English with optional subtitles, and dubbing in French, both in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono format.
Obviously I love you, film by Jean-Michel Carré (1995, 99 ‘, 1.66: 1, DD 2.0 mono, English subtitles available, Les Films Le Grain de sable, Canal +). Selected at Cannes, the film follows the path of Denis, a young recidivist delinquent to whom the justice offers a stay at the Coral as an alternative to prison. Shot at the Coral, in Aimargues in the Gard, interpreted by a few actors, Denis Lavant, Dominique Frot, Jean-François Gallotte, Vanessa Guedj, Sophie Roversi and, in their own role, Claude Sigala, the patients and educators of the Coral.
A lot, passionately, madly … (2000, 76 ‘, Jean-Michel Carré, Les Films Le Grain de sable, France 2). “Somewhere in the Camargue, the place of life” Le Coral “…”. In the Sixties, in reaction to traditional psychiatry, doctors and educators welcome in places of life, in full freedom, the mentally ill, social cases, young people released from prison, “to live with” and show them that ‘they are capable of committing to a project, an artistic creation. An interesting documentary on the set of Obviously I love you commented by the director, unfortunately a little spoiled by a modification of the original ratio resulting in a vertical compression of the image! In addition, the commentary tends, at times, to be clouded by the mood. In conclusion, we follow the team at the Cannes Film Festival, at its press conference, at its Canal + interview. The shooting and the success of the film will have a lasting impact on the residents of the Coral.
Interview with Claude Sigala (17 ‘, 1.33: 1, DD 2.0 mono, 2021). Help the individual to define a personal project, outside any institutional framework, so that he becomes a “social being”, confront him with different people with whom he will exchange, share, without trying to “lock him in normality ”sums up the psychiatrist’s approach. The message is difficult to be received by society and we will continue to lock up autistic people with autism, psychotics with psychotics.
We regret, despite the interest of these three documents, the absence of an analysis of Ken Loach’s film.
The image, with a ratio of 1.33: 1, freed by a careful restoration of the marks of degradation of the film, offers natural colors, well calibrated and quite firm contrasts. The grain of the 35 mm has been preserved.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound of the original version, thanks to a fairly good dynamic, reproduces the atmospheres with a certain realism. But the dialogues are often covered by an excess of reverberation.
They are clearer in the French dubbing, but unnatural.
Image credits: © EMI Films, Kestrel Films
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DVDFr | Family Life: the complete DVD review