Family Law

2006, Movie, NR, 102 mins


Writer-director Daniel Burman's (LOST EMBRACE) drily humorous, poker-faced comedic style is once again used in full play in this funny and touching film about a young Argentine man and his aging father, both of whom happen to be lawyers. For the past 47 years, widower Dr. Bernardo Perelman (Arturo Goetz) has followed a strictly regimented schedule and kept himself attuned to the needs and concerns of his clients, two admirable qualities that have no doubt contributed to his success as a practicing lawyer. The professional witnesses Perelman Sr. pays to convince judges certainly don't hurt his cases, either. He'd like his son to join him in his practice, but Ariel (LOST EMBRACE's Daniel Hendler) prefers students over clients, and when he's not serving as a public defender, he teaches classes at a Buenos Aires university. Ariel makes a professional exception for Sandra (Julieta Diaz), a young student who also works as a Pilates instructor and whom Ariel is convinced will one day be his wife. Sandra gets into a spot of trouble under the Law of Trademark and Patents — at the time, the rights to practice the Pilates method in Argentina was held by one company, so anyone, like Sandra, caught operating independent of that company is prosecutable by law. Her Pilates machine is confiscated, but with a lot of behind-the-scenes help from Bernardo, Ariel wins the suit Sandra brings against the company. He also wins her heart, and his marriage prediction soon comes to pass. A few years later, Sandra has expanded her Pilates business while overseeing the extensive renovation of their house, and she and Ariel are raising a young son. Ariel, however, has trouble getting into the rhythm of his new life, and begins to question his role as a lawyer, husband and father. When a crumbling infrastructure forces the closure of the public law offices, Ariel takes the advice of a friend and doesn't tell Sandra; instead, he uses the month-long hiatus from work to explore other options, and learns a few new things about his father in the process. Perelman and son share a poignant bond, and Burman adds flesh and flavor to what seems to be a pet theme by using colorful secondary characters such as Astorga, who runs a notoriously unhygienic cafe, and Ariel's Uncle Eduardo (Jean Pierre Reguerraz), a strong-arming attorney who runs a shady company named Bad Debtors. Burman is also fond of enriching the texture of the film with historical asides, like the fascinating development of the Pilates method. The now-fashionable exercise system was developed by Joseph Pilates, a German national living in England who was sent to an internment camp during World War I. While imprisoned, Pilates learned to strengthen his body and the bodies of his fellow internees using the only apparatus available to him: the springs of their mattresses. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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