There’s somewhat a charm about 1970s. Its clothing style, its music, even its films. Director Guillaume Canet in Blood Ties (2013) tried to pull that off.
Blood Ties is a concoction of the melodrama of family and romance issues and the cold-heartedness of crimes and violence. Set in New York, 1974, it tells a tale about Chris (Clive Owen) who has just been released from prison. Like yin and yang, the family has him on the dark side and Frank (Billy Crudup) on the light side; him being a cop who serves justice. Frank takes good care of the aftermath of his brother’s release, he helps him find a new job, live in his house, and reconcile back with his wife Monica (Marion Cotillard) despite their father’s favoritism towards Chris. But old habit stays as a habit. Chris eventually wants to get back to the dark criminal life, posing a dilemma towards Frank as a good cop and also as his brother who unfortunately shares that blood tie.
As Canet’s first film debut internationally, Blood Ties is far from the criteria of a bad movie, if not at all. Some people may say the movie is dragging boring, it’s too long–but besides of that’s the signature of European films that only several can appreciate, the “dragging” word itself is necessary to build the nuance of the movie. The story is complex that it takes what it takes to tell it all. Audiences are told to wait patiently to wait for the story to be told. Not in a stuttering way, but it certainly needs a lot of pauses to let the sentimentality replaces the brutality–and vice versa–incessantly.
The storywriting itself is neat. It starts off with a seinfeldian conversation which reminds us a lot about Quentin Tarantino’s way of starting a story (the beginning of Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, for instance, start off with seinfeldian conversations). And just when the movie catches audiences’ attention is where they insert violence as a surprise factor. Then it intertwines with sentimentality again. The whole movie is a roller-coaster ride full of twists of emotions and turns of giggles or aghast. The story poses a dilemmatic question about the position of family in one’s life, especially one who’s a grown-up man who should not have too much sentimentality in one’s life. But the brothers’ fragility is what makes audiences care for them, because the depiction of family, crimes, jobs, and the romance is just right. Canet didn’t overdo it nor did he leave anything.
Like a family who has two sons of opposite traits, in every character there also lies contradictory behavior. Chris may be the criminal one but look at how he awkwardly falls in love with Natalie (Mila Kunis) and the awkward yet sweet proposal he gets for her. Also the love he shows for his kids he has with Monica. Frank, on the other hand, is the cop, but he also does some morally questionable things like hitting on Vanessa (Zoe Saldana) who’s the wife of a convicted criminal Frank once arrested. Later on in the end Frank also has to decide between his job as a cop and his status as Chris’ brother to accentuate the contradictory side of him. It’s a realistic picturization of the complex human characters and it’s depicted honestly and patiently since the beginning of the movie.
To be brief, Blood Ties (2013) depicts a dilemmatic yet realistic story about two brothers struggling for their own lives. The movie is dragging long but not boring in the least bit. The display of violence and romance and sentimentality is just right, honest, and not overromanticized. Blood Ties is indeed worth watching. I’ve read so much bad reviews about this movie in which I don’t understand why people dislike this movie (it only gets a 6.4 rating in IMDb, for God’s sake). Perhaps some people just dislike the way the movie uses the common formula of a good movie–like 1970s great songs as the soundtrack, seinfeldian conversation, or plain sex and gore. I admit that criticism but still the way it succeeds to make a neat story and an honest picture is what’s worth appreciating from this movie. Blood Ties is really worth seeing.