It's certainly an unconventional film, but Pablo Trapero's Rolling Family (Familia Rodante, 2004) manages to find its bearings nonetheless. The Argentinean director's previous features include Mundo Grua (1999) and El Bonaerense (2002), both fairly well-received in his home country and abroad. In several ways, Rolling Family is Trapero's most personal film yet, and not just because he cast his elderly grandmother in a feature role. Though family road trips aren't exactly new cinematic territory, this down-to-earth adventure manages to keep the pace for 95 minutes.
As the head of the family, Trapero's 83 year-old grandmother convinces her flock to go on a road trip after being invited to participate in her estranged niece's wedding. When all is said and done, a dozen family members are enthusiastically (and reluctantly) crammed inside a battered and worn camper, ready to embark on their 1,000 kilometer journey. This family, of course, is entirely fictional, but it's their emotional relationships with one another that drive Rolling Family. This obviously won't be a journey without arguments: after all, combine cramped quarters with a multitude of vehicle breakdowns, and you'll test anyone's patience.
Through it all, Trapero attempts to capture the ups and downs of family life in quasi-documentary style; he successfully does so, for the most part. Many of the disagreements are only predictable because we've experienced them in real life, giving Rolling Family a familiar but fresh atmosphere. The main downside, of course, is entirely central to the plot: for better or worse, it's a 95-minute film about a family road trip. If that doesn't sound remotely entertaining, Rolling Family probably isn't a film for you. Those interested in deliberately paced character-driven movies, on the other hand, should find most every kilometer of Trapero's film enjoyable.
Presented on DVD by the ever-dependable Palm Pictures, Rolling Family features a pleasing technical presentation with a mild assortment of bonus features. It's certainly not a film for all audiences---not to mention one you probably won't revisit very often---but it's a good effort and a well-rounded package. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality:
It's certainly not glossy and polished, but at least Palm Pictures' solid 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer preserves the film's original aspect ratio. The bold color palette looks terrific, while close-ups reveal a modest amount of image detail. Grain is in abundance from start to finish---especially during night scenes---but this is unavoidable, due to the type of film stock used. Digital problems (edge enhancement and combing, for example) also don't seem to be an issue here, rounding out the video presentation quite nicely.
The audio presentation is also very basic but effective, as the Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (also available in 2.0) offers a subtle atmosphere that manages to get the job done. Even so, Rolling Family is very much a dialogue-driven film, so don't expect a great deal of surround activity and LFE action. Optional English subtitles are offered during the main feature only, though a few of Spanish-language extras also contain forced English subtitles.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging:
Seen above, the somewhat generic but attractive menu designs offer a nice layout and easy navigation. This 95-minute film has been divided into 18 chapters, while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. This one-disc release is housed in a clear keepcase with double-sided artwork; though no inserts are included, a handy chapter listing has been printed on the inside.
Not much to dig through here, but Palm Pictures has included a few goodies. The main attraction is a short but entertaining Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (20:43) featuring comments from members of the cast and crew, including director Pablo Trapero. Divided into 7 chapters, this piece also briefly covers the film's music, a portion of the casting process and other production highlights. Also here is a pair of Trailers for the film: the original Argentinean version (2:44) and a more stylized American one (1:32), both of which "sell" the film differently. Closing things down are a few Previews for other Palm releases and a few handy Weblinks.
All bonus features are presented in 1.78:1 non-anamorphic widescreen (except the American trailer, which is 16x9 enhanced) and feature burnt-in English subtitles. Though it's good to see a few interesting extras, it's disappointing that we couldn't get a feature-length commentary with the director or cast.
Slow-moving but deliberate, Pablo Trapero's Rolling Family provides a poignant slice of life that patient viewers should enjoy. It's not for all tastes, but those who appreciate level-headed family adventures could certainly do a lot worse. Palm Pictures' DVD presentation blesses the film with a solid technical presentation, though the extras don't dig deep. There's no doubt that this release will only appeal to a limited audience---and for that reason alone, it's tough to recommend as a blind buy. All things considered, there's enough here to make Rolling Family worth investigating. Rent It.
Randy Miller III is a sarcastic yet moderately affable desk jockey and art instructor hailing from Harrisburg, PA. In his free time, he enjoys slacking off, mocking passers-by and writing things in third person. One day, he hopes to be featured on a cereal box.