Even giving it some very serious thought, I’d struggle to come up with a recent film I’ve hated more fervently than Sebastiano Riso’s risible, morally disgusting Una Famiglia. It’s a melodrama about a couple who sell babies to rich people unable to conceive or adopt, packed to the gills with screechingly awful acting, horrible people, incomprehensibly shoddy writing, and rampant misogyny. The worst film at the 2017 Venice Film Festival and, actually, the worst film of the year overall, it starts out boringly and annoyingly opaque, but when it finally reveals itself, you’ll wish you’d walked out of the whole thing 20 minutes beforehand.
Micaela Ramazotti and Patrick Bruel play Maria and Vincenzo, the intensely unlikable couple at the centre of Una Famiglia. He’s a vile, vicious boor with vaguely angry disinterest defining Bruel’s performance, and she’s by turns boring and incomprehensible, only able to display emotion through gurning and grimacing. In countless scenes Maria tries to make a point by gritting her teeth and screeching the same line over and over and over again, a technique that soon becomes a viscerally repellent noise.
Though Ramazotti’s is definitely a hideous, amateur-ish performance, part of the reason that she’s so grating is that Riso and co-writers Andrea Cedrola and Stefano Grasso’s script is so painfully anti-women. All they’re there to do is scream and cry and be irresistibly attracted to the Neanderthal features of Vincenzo, most egregiously when 20 year old Stella (Matilda de Angelis) has to be physically forced off of Vincenzo while she’s stark naked. Riso can’t go five minutes without having one of his female characters slapped, groped, or grabbed by the hair, and the one instance in which he attempts to show tenderness to Maria ends up as one of the worst sex scenes ever filmed.
How this film got made is a mystery (though a fun typo on its IMDB page suggests a budget of €2, which seems about right), and how it made it into contention at Venice is even more inexplicable. Boring and annoying until it transforms into detestable, Riso’s film is an irredeemable technical and emotional failure and a deeply damning insight into the psyche of its makers.