LFF 2021 film review: La Mif (The Fam)
Ivan Radford | On 10, Oct 2021
Director: Fred Baillif
Cast: Claudia Grob , Anaïs Uldry, Kassia Da Costa, Joyce Esther Ndayisenga, Charlie Areddy, Amélie Tonsi, Amandine Golay, Sara Tulu
Where to watch La Mif online in the UK: London Film Festival
La Mif is streaming at the 2021 London Film Festival. Find out more about how the festival works and what else is playing online here.
“Who are you?” “The queen of punks, in the land of pain in the ass.” That’s the kind of remark you can expect to hear in La Mif, Fred Baillif’s raw, remarkable drama that shines an unflinching light on the reality of life in a young people’s home.
The film, which is several years in the making, is the product of Baillif working in partnership with the girls at a real life care home in Geneva, not unlike Sarah Gavron’s Rocks. It’s an exercise in trust as much as storytelling – a bold, honest and moving portrait of trauma and support.
“La Mif” is slang for “The Fam”, and there’s a real sense of a group bond throughout the 100-minute runtime, even as we jump back and forth in time to follow events from multiple girls’ perspectives – Novinha, Alison, Precieuse and more. The characters are all movingly believable, played with heartbreaking authenticity by the non-professional cast, rooted in their own experiences. They each have their own tragedies, ranging from domestic trouble to – alarmingly frequently – sexual abuse, but together, they find ways to cope and control feelings of shame or anger.
Baillif sensitively sticks close to them all with handheld cameras, never scripting dialogue but letting it unfold naturally in a sincere jumble of thoughts – although some hard-hitting monologues are scripted to deliver the loose narrative that becomes clear as the medley of individuals coalesces into a poignant whole. But there’s also an arresting, unpredictable energy to what we’re witnessing, and questions of truth and trust feed into the coming-of-age tensions.
The director was a social worker at one point, so it’s only fitting that Lora (Claudia Grob), the home director, should also get an emotional arc, and her motivation for recent time off – and her reason for coming back – is utterly heart-wrenching. While the pacing may be a little slow and the focus sometimes feels haphazard, what emerges amid the scrappy, unvarnished struggles of these young people is a lucid snapshot of the challenges facing social care, and the perhaps-inevitable shortcomings of the system as a whole, but also a tribute to the solidarity and family that can be found within this land of pain. “You say you want to protect us,” one of the girls says to Lora late on – but what’s also clear is the girls are helping her too.
La Mif is streaming on BFI Player from 9pm on 10th October until 9pm on 11th October 2021. Book a ticket here. You have 24 hours to start watching and 4 hours to complete the film once you’ve started.