The decision to take non-traditional actors, general members of the public, and spin a story of a company that rents out human stand-ins for events, is a creative and wholly interesting idea. How director Werner Herzog would spin it was completely unknown to me. What I’ve experienced of his work so far has been so different and versatile, unique in each and every film he looks to present. Family Romance, LLC feels like an intentionally clumsy documentary, ditching all the tropes, experiences and styles you’ve come to love of Herzog, who reinvents his directing abilities into something that feels natural, believable, and documentary-like.
Yuchi Ishii, the founder of this company that looks to bring the dreams and desires of its customers to life, soon finds himself in over his head and in an awkward position. Tasked with replicating a missing father, the lines of stifled acting and genuine emotion bleed into one another with a rapid, uncomfortably frightening pace. It’s a wholly engaging film, but one that definitely has a disconnect between its audience and what its story looks to convict. I struggle to see the message at the heart of this one, and it’s a shame since Family Romance, LLC ditches the more contemporary and classic themes of the Herzog picture.
With a narrative that begins to lose focus from time to time, it’s rather difficult to figure out what underlying aim or message Family Romance, LLC has for us. It’s all very well made, looking more and more like a rather amateur documentary, its faux presentation of documentary filmmaking is something, I assume, Herzog either wishes to satirise or make fun of. It’s so far away from the style of his actual documentaries that it must be closer to that of taking a poke at the behemoth of conventional documentarians. Still, his approach is rather well made, his fictional characters feel realistic, the direction intentionally clunky, it all comes together rather well.
It’d be easy for Herzog to make this a faux lightning in a bottle, as if his fictional documentary had stumbled upon something with much more detail and excitement, but that moment never comes. Family Romance, LLC is well crafted, but the fruits of its labour are minimal at best. A solid enough take on the conventions of documentary filmmaking, this latest feature from Herzog will prove a rewarding time for his hardcore fans, but a tad underwhelming for those not used to his style or craft.