SXSW Film Reviews

NARRATIVE SHORTS PROGRAM 2

D: Various. Starring Frances McDormand as an elitist Upper West Side matriarch, director Itamar Kubovy's "Upheaval" sets the standard for this compilation of stories centered on anarchic families on the verge of a collective breakdown. Of the pack, McDormand's intensely narcissistic, control-freak mother on the hunt for a stolen brooch leaves the most indelible screen presence, whereas several of the other offerings here withhold this elevated level of emotional complexity. Take directors Reynold Reynolds and Patrick Jolley's "Burn," for instance, in which a falling-apart family sets itself ablaze as a blunt symbol for how oblivious they are to their own demise. It's a mesmerizing spectacle, but, riveting special effects aside, when the novelty wanes, it's difficult to stay attentive to characters, who are void of insight, emotion, or senses -- which is far from the case in director Ryan Gould's generally well-conceived "PG," in which we discover the most human and humiliating circumstance of teen love transformed into something magical. (3/15, Alamo, 2:30pm)

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