Family Romance, LLC (2019)

While it may be rather underwhelming, Herzog’s gentle docu-fiction explores our need to connect with another human being despite the increasing commodification of human experiences in modern societies.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Dir. Werner Herzog
2019 | USA/Japan | Docu-Fiction | 89 mins | 1.85:1 | Japanese
PG13 (passed clean) for some coarse language

Cast: Ishii Yuichi, Mahiro Tanimoto, Miki Fujimaki
Plot: A man is hired to impersonate the missing father of a young girl.
Awards: Official Selection (Cannes)
International Sales: Film Constellation (SG: Anticipate Pictures)

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Human Connection
Narrative Style:  Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: The Projector
Spoilers: No

A quaint and gentle new work by the indefatigable Werner Herzog, Family Romance, LLC will delight audiences looking for a tranquil diversion from depressing arthouse films or the bombast of Hollywood genre movies. 

I’m of the opinion that it is ultimately a minor, underwhelming work by Herzog, but it is not at all frustrating to watch.  In fact, it is a calming experience despite the seeming absurdity of the material. 

Herzog (as cinematographer as well) follows a man dressed in a suit as he waits for his daughter that he has not seen for many years to locate him on a crowded sidewalk. 

After exchanging some awkward pleasantries, they try to learn more about each other.  But it’s all fake—he’s not the real father, but a stand-in hired by the mother. 

Herzog shot about 350 minutes of footage in total.

The man is one of several ‘fathers/lovers/friends/you name it-for-rent’ who works for ‘Family Romance, LLC’, a business entity hoping to serve the needs of people desperate to connect with another human being. 

The setting is in Japan (duh!), where the increasing commodification of human experiences threatens to replace the organicity and spontaneity of human interactions in modern society. 

The film’s docu-fictive construct might lead you to think that it is a documentary (well, the phenomenon is real…), yet it is also a scripted work of fiction, but such is Herzog’s playful sleight-of-hand that it feels like neither and both at the same time. 

This elusive quality will surely intrigue some viewers, while others may find it inconsequential in the larger scheme of things.

Grade: B-


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