Family Dinner is a quiet psychological thriller that keeps surprising audiences. The Austrian film is about a fifteen year old named Simi (Nina Katlein) who decides to spend Easter at her Aunt Claudia’s (Pia Hierzegger) farm. Simi wants her aunt’s help losing weight, but soon finds out that all is not as it seems.
The film is unnervingly patient and methodical. It is never completely silent, but a stillness fills Family Dinner. At times, it is as if even the music is intruding on the tranquility of the setting. The lack of complete silence adds to the eeriness. Whether it is the monotonous clicking of a pocket knife being open and shut or just the normal sounds of the kitchen, the constant buzz in the background never allows for a sense of bliss.
That is where Family Dinner truly stands out. Something is definitely wrong, but it is impossible to place a finger on it. Do Claudia and her family look down on Simi because of her weight? Or is their home not as peaceful as they want others to believe? Is everyone in danger? The plot offers a variety of clues that will keep audiences guessing.
This mystery is built over the course of the entire film. Along the way, Family Dinner takes on the idea of a positive body image. There is a wonderful exchange between Simi and her cousin Fillip towards the end of the movie. It is a striking commentary on taking control of your personal narrative and will surprise some viewers.
Everything leads to a tense climax that is expertly teased out. It is in these moments that the folk horror pedigree of Family Dinner truly stands out. The film is dark and creepy and seems like something out of another time. Gone are the notions of beauty; the traditions that Claudia holds so dear take center stage in a disgusting, yet satisfying, conclusion.
The Tribeca Film Festival takes place from June 8 – June 19. Full lineup, passes, and tickets can be found HERE
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