Directed by Ken Loach and released in its home country of England in 1971.
Yet another defining social drama from the British master that is Ken Loach… but this time one of his most early efforts. What is it about all of these stark and realistic portrayals of Britain in films from the likes of Alan Clarke, Mike Leigh and Ken Loach that, despite being made so many decades ago, STILL rings true with British life today all these years later? Have things really changed that little? You’ll have to ask Loach or Leigh that themselves because I’ve only been stuck here for just over twenty of these years….
What’s funny to me about this group of British films, and Family Life especially, is that many of my own personal ideas about British life and the want for escaping from it are suggested by characters in these films themselves, something that really makes me adore the films so much more. As it pertains to this film especially, I find that regardless of the ideas that our main character’s parents try to force onto their child, the progressive nature of the human mind (in this case represented by that of Janice) really tried to break free and away from those ideas… and just as always in such a situation, the one trying to break free from the ideas handed down through generations, those are the ones who are seen as crazy. For me, having to see such a sane character be sent off to a mental hospital was truly harrowing… as Loach shows in almost every single one of his films, the treatment by the government of these fragile individuals is never as an equal, but always as something lower than themselves. This is absolutely illustrated when Janice is given shock treatment – she was not the only one who was given such brash treatments in place of more peaceful and honest ways of treatment such as psychotherapy and such things… the way that society wants to just brush the true nature of itself to the side in favour of what they can use to hold up as their barrier against things which they are not proud of is just despicable. The opposite side here obviously represented by those figures who take over the hospital after the psychologists are ran out of it without a care in the world for the wellbeing of the patients that they are paid to protect. A true allegory that really can relate to many things, mostly to the idea of political leaders.
Family Life is one of those true classics of British cinema and needs to be sought out by anyone who is willing to look past the ideas thrust down their throats by those older than them and are willing to look at things with a new eye… their own.
Oh, Ken… you truly are one of the greatest filmmakers to ever poke their eye through the lens of a camera.