SXSW Film Review: Flesh and Blood (USA, 2017) is a harrowing look into the life of a fractured man and his family

It’s hard not to feel a large sense of relief after reaching the end of Mark Webber‘s latest directorial piece that is Flesh and Blood. Not because the film was a tough watch (which in a way, it is), but rather because you are given the chance to leave the cinema and return to what is hopefully, a life far less difficult and fractured than that of Mark Webber’s on-screen portrayal.

Shot in a pseudo-documentary style that seamlessly blurs the line between what is fact and what is fiction, Flesh and Blood employs the life of director Mark Webber and his family in a case where the characters of the film are represented through their real life counterparts. Not only does this lead to some shockingly emotional moments between the actors, but also elevates the film’s sense of realism and consequently, the connection felt by the audience.

I mention connection felt by the audience as it becomes apparent early on in the film that it was one of Webber’s main goals in creating a movie such as this. Flesh and Blood constantly attempts to pull the viewer further and further into its narrative as the film ultimately acts as a reflection upon everyday life. This leads Flesh and Blood to deal with a whole host of prominent and realistic issues such as drug addiction, bullying, disabilities, and death. This becomes no more evident in the characterization of the three main leads of the film and the fact that they are Webber’s actual family.

Despite the troubles that would come from having to direct your own family members in a film that you wrote, produced and directed, its hard to falter any of the acting seen throughout. While Mark is the obvious star of the show, it’s the combination of his mother, father, and brother that ultimately make the film. Particular praise must be given to Mark’s brother, Guillermo Santos, who despite having both Asperger’s Syndrome and zero previous acting experience, delivers a genuinely raw and authentic performance of a teenager who was to deal with high-school issues of bullying and judgement .

The cinematography found within Flesh and Blood is also worth a mention as while it is typical of an indie film such as this, it is still nonetheless, beautiful to behold. Gritty, revealing, but most importantly, realistic, the camerawork behind Flesh and Blood should have no difficulties with its aforementioned goal of encapsulating its audience and drawing them further into the drama. The fact that Flesh and Blood doesn’t have a true soundtrack either, successfully plays into this voyeuristic/documentary-style look that is the trial and tribulations of Mark Webber’s life.

More than anything, Flesh and Blood is a character study of Mark Webber and his family. Its main draw is its semi-autobiographical nature and filmography, in which it examines the many nuanced imperfections that together, make up a flawed life. Thank goodness then that Flesh and Blood is for the most part, gripping work. Despite its sometime distant subject matter and depressing moments, its combination of authentic acting and intriguing cinematography, make it one of the most relatable films soon to be out in circulation. Flesh and Blood is definitely worth your time.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Flesh and Blood is screening at SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas.