Written and directed by Lucy Kerr, “Family Portrait” takes place on a sprawling estate in Texas as a large family attempts to take their annual group photo for their holiday card. Kerr sets the mood with a lingering, almost silent pan as the family gathers in a field during a more successful previous portrait outing. Slowly, sounds of the wind in the trees, children playing, and the overlapping chatter of the adults fade in, highlighting the chaos that becomes order once the photo is snapped.
Cut to Spring 2020, the family has gathered once again on a sunny morning for their annual portrait. This year, Olek (Chris Galust), the boyfriend of family member Katy (Deragh Campbell), is tasked with taking the photo. The two are eager to leave for the airport, with dialogue indicating that part of their eagerness to depart may stem from the family’s underlying resentment that Olek and Katy are not yet married.
Most of the film unfolds as a series of static shots, like posed photos, as the large family talks about nothing—but says everything about who they are. There are stories about WWII, sick family members, and vaccinations, all of which are done in the most polite tones but are simmering under the surface with the kind of anger that we now know the looming COVID-19 quarantine caused many to boil over. Kerr’s approach at times feels a bit too distant, but if she aims to be as vague as the emotions you can interpret from a still photograph, then she succeeds.
In Jessica Hausner’s deadpan wellness culture satire “Club Zero,” Mia Wasikowska plays Ms. Novak, a pioneer in “conscious eating” who is hired as a nutrition teacher at an elite private school. Ms. Novak charms the headmistress and vulnerable students alike with her fasting tea and steadfast dedication to her kooky eating beliefs.
Ms. Novak’s students have various reasons they want to eat better. There’s a student-athlete, someone hiding her disordered eating, one who thinks eating will help fight climate change, a dancer whose parents work abroad, and a scholarship student who thinks the class will help his test scores. Through this mixture of pupils, the script, which Hausner and Géraldine Bajard co-wrote, navigates the various ways kids can be susceptible to dogma, especially when it’s coming from a trusted source, while at the same time taking an incisive look at the perils of emotional neglect that can happen to the most economically advantaged of people.