Hailing from Spanish writer Olatz Arroyo and director Arantxa Echevarría, The Perfect Family (or the Spanish title, La Familia Perfecta), the Spanish language film landed on Netflix as part of a licensing deal. Is the story about an uptight mother and her son’s lower-class girlfriend in Madrid worth the stream?
THE PERFECT FAMILY: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Posh stay-at-home mom Lucia is shocked when her son Pablo introduces her to a lower-class woman, Sara, with the intention to marry her. Reluctantly, Lucia helps them plan their wedding along with Sara’s father Miguel, who inadvertently changes her life forever when they act on a mutual crush.
What Will It Remind You Of?: Lucia’s initial wedding sabotage plan felt like Jane Fonda in Monster-In-Law, but her character’s journey feels more like Julia Roberts’ reinvention in Eat, Pray Love (though Lucia doesn’t have to leave the country to find her bliss).
Performance Worth Watching: Belén Rueda is great at calibrating the different versions of Lucia — entirely believable as a stuck up upper-class woman and then later as a reformed school administrator.
Memorable Dialogue: Before departing on a roadtrip to see wedding venues, Pablo’s father Ernesto drives home the fact that he’s incapable of caring for himself: “Do I heat it up in Celsius or Farenheit?,” he asks about the microwave. “The fridge was right here!” he realizes later in the scene.
Sex and Skin: While we don’t see anything explicit, Pablo and Sara do have some loud sex at the cabin that spooks his mother.
Our Take: If this were a film entirely about the friction between a stern mother-in-law and her off-the-beaten-track daughter-in-law, this film would fall flat. There’s hardly any character and relationship development between Pablo and Sara — the only thing we really see is the conflict of the two different worlds they come from, which manifests in their mannerisms and costuming. We also hardly see Lucia and Sara interacting enough to warrant the supposed hatred between them. It’s a story we’ve seen before and ultimately Lucia doesn’t fully embody the evil mother-in-law stereotype aside from nudging the couple towards postponing their wedding.
So it’s great that the film isn’t really about that. The ill-fated romance between Pablo’s mother Lucia and Sara’s father Miguel is a diversion to get to a more interesting story: the reinvention of Lucia. After the affair, Lucia moves out of her big, dreamy apartment and away from the creature comforts that she became so used to (including her uninterested housekeeper and her cold husband), and forces Lucia to finally listen to herself for once. I’m always here for the story of older women finally living life on their own terms, and The Perfect Family allows Lucia to trip over her own feet on her journey to that place.
While there aren’t any star-making performances in the film, Rueda’s warmth makes it easy to root for her even when she’s making bad decisions. And the film is subtly funny, with a few one-liners that provide a chuckle (though I wasn’t necessarily laughing out loud at any point).
This film won’t change the world and it occasionally plays like a Lifetime holiday movie, but it’s enjoyable for those interested in a lighthearted film that may also make you want to book the next flight to Madrid. (Note: Netflix will autoplay this film with an English dub, but I recommend watching in the original Spanish with subtitles in order to get the full effect of the performances and story.)
Our Call: STREAM IT. What starts out as a typical story about a wealthy, disapproving mother-in-law turns into a film about freedom and reinvention.
Radhika Menon (@menonrad) is a TV-obsessed writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared on Vulture, Teen Vogue, Paste Magazine and more. At any given moment, she can ruminate at length over Friday Night Lights, the University of Michigan, and the perfect slice of pizza. You may call her Rad.