SXSW 2013: ‘Burma’ uncorks buried family tensions in this honest drama
Every family has their own issues, tendencies, and dysfunctions, but that familial bond transcends any sort of disagreement. However, what happens when familial bonds are tested against each other? When trust is betrayed, when parents abandon their children, what is the end result? Carlos Puga’s Burma takes an honest look at abandonment, resentment, and the sometimes unfulfilling sense of reconciliation.
The film revolves around three siblings: Christian (Christopher Abbott) the wayward, drug abusing writer, Susan (Gaby Hoffmann) the overbearing mother and wife, and Win (Dan Bittner) the successful and hopeful children’s writer. They are all living distant lives until their annual family reunion rolls around. Christian is at an all time low, having blown an interview, and then his father (Christopher McCann), having left them nine years ago, returns promising to have a satisfying reason why he left.
Winner of SXSW’s Special Jury Prize for Best Ensemble, the cast here all turn in excellent performances. They constantly move between the line of funny moments of familial warmth to biting, harsh moments of honesty. The film explores the many themes surrounding the family unit. In many ways, Burma shares a lot of connections thematically and character wise with many Wes Anderson films but minus the whimsy and bright color palette. There is the odd cast of siblings, each with their own faults, exacerbated by their absentee father.
Burma finds it’s step in its authentic portrayal of a family that has suffered loss and tend to bury their problems. In his intentions of giving his children an explanation, their father helps to bring up many other issues straining the siblings. The ending is not a clear cut and sentimental ending, but it is ,above all, an authentic one in which answers and explanations don’t always heal all wounds, and neither does creating a focal point of blame. It is up to your family–the ones that are still there–to make those amends. Burma is an honest and emotional drama exploring what tests a family and what it takes to get through them.