This film was watched as a part of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). The Mattachine Family has its world premier on Friday, May 12, 2023. You can see my interview with the director here!
Without a doubt, I think if I just saw the name of this film, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. The Mattachine Family? That is a real fancy sounding word that I don’t understand, being the illiterate adult that I am. Turns out, Mattachine isn’t really an adjective to describe the type of family, but it can be a reference to many things.
Personally, I think that it mostly would refer to The Mattachine Society, which ended up being an early organization that came about for gay rights. Huh, look at that, I am learning already.
And before I get further, it is most important to point out that this film with many producers, also has Zach Braff attached as the executive producer. Which means he is putting that Scrubs money to good use. Diverse films!
If you look closely, those steps are The Mattachine Steps. Damn, I was wrong!
This is a story about family, which you probably got from the title.
Specifically, it is about Thomas (Nico Tortorella) and Oscar (Juan Pablo Di Pace). Thomas and Oscar are not only in a relationship, they were foster parents for a little kid! Wait, let’s back up a little bit.
Oscar used to be an actor! He was a child star, on sitcoms, got really famous and was himself a foster kid. So it makes sense for him to want to do the same. Things came crashing down when it came out that he was out.
Thomas and Oscar met at one point, and the rest is history! Just kidding, it has its ups and downs as well. In fact, Thomas is a photographer and is struggling to figure out what it means to have a family as an adult gay man. But fostering a kid is certainly one way.
But then, well, his mother is better, and takes him back, after a year in their life. And it turns out, Oscars career is finally starting to pick back up. So he is going to be away filming. And their kid is gone. So what is Thomas to do? He is alone, not sure where to go on in life. Should he try for adoption? Should he ignore kids completely and just focus on living his life with his friends? Being an adult is hard, and it turns out, so is making a family.
What is love if it is not holding someone from behind in your arms?
But if you dig deeper…you find out that they were outside of the home of Harry Hay…the founder of the Mattachine Society. Oh good, we are back to that, and it looks like I was right! But hey, the metaphor works nicely as well.
Anyways, this is a very unique film I would say. It isn’t really a standard family film, it isn’t a romcom for the leads. It is almost like dealing with a middle age crisis on what to do for the rest of your life, if you want a family but can’t seem to have one. Obviously the goal here is to define families in a more broad sense, for the friends and people you have in your life and choose to spend your time with. But it is certainly in the drama film, if not loosely, barely, in the romance genre side of things.
I think all of the leads did a fantastic job. They felt believable and were fully fleshed out characters. At the same time, this film had so many ideas floating in it, with the side characters and subplots. I wasn’t sure what the film was meant to be about, until we really got to the final scenes and conclusions began. In my mind, it felt like that this film was maybe first envisioned as a pilot for a television show, that can continue to tell the story of these friends and characters as they continue on for life, but somewhere it pivoted into what we have. I know it isn’t true, but it is the feeling I get from the film, with how disjointed some moments are from scene to scene.
Again, well acted, and honestly, a beautifully shot film. And if the “driveway fall” doesn’t suck you in early on, I am not sure if movies are meant for you.