Family Time. 2023. Finland. Directed by Tia Kouvo. US Premiere. In Finnish; English subtitles. 116 min.
In a remote, rustic house tucked in the snowy Finnish woods, a family gathers for a Christmas that’s anything but idyllic. Debut feature filmmaker Tia Kouvo allows each of the characters to come to gradual, vivid life: the grandfather who has alienated everyone with his drinking, the grandmother tired of putting a happy face on her situation, their bickering grown daughters and alienated son-in-law, and three grandkids trying to go their own ways. With accumulating humor and tragedy, and using precisely calibrated static frames, Kouvo expertly depicts the forced togetherness and claustrophobia of the holiday and, perhaps even more unsettling, what happens when everyone has to go back to their normal routines. A lovingly etched yet unsparing picture of estrangement and melancholy, Family Time is an entirely relatable expression of the cyclical patterns of behavior that can thwart our attempts at connection.