The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival has given SLO Review the opportunity to review some of the narrative and documentary feature films on its 2024 program schedule. Follow the links to purchase tickets to see these notable films for yourself.

“Each Unhappy Family Is Unhappy In Its Own Way”

Leo Tolstoy sums up the film All Happy Families best when he said, “All happy families are alike. Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Writer-director Haroula Rose’s second feature, cowritten with Coburn Gross and screening at this year’s SLO International Film Festival, depicts a Chicago family going through changes that become intertwined and threaten to tear them apart.

A relatable movie that is well worth seeing, it starts out with what appears to be an innocent family get-together, but as events unfold the plot thickens in a very entertaining, but very real, way. Family dysfunction is on display and no secret is left unheard as two competitive brothers share a weekend in their childhood family home.

Problems of this dysfunctional family flow like the water from the broken pipes in their basement, as long held resentments are revealed.

The movie’s four principal actors—Josh Radnor, Rob Huebel, John Ashton, and Becky Ann Baker—are perfectly paired with a strong supporting cast as they portray Chicago’s suburban lifestyle, complete with Dad going to the tavern to blow off steam.

It’s actually refreshing to watch a “family life” movie that isn’t all unicorns and marshmallows.

The main character, Graham (Radnor), is a frustrated screenwriter/actor who lives in the shadow of his famous TV star brother (Huebel). Graham discovers a past relationship with real potential while preparing the family childhood home for rent. His college crush (Chandra Russell) adds some sanity to an emotionally-charged weekend.

While the boys have their own issues, Mom and Dad (Baker and Ashton) must come to terms with their own demons. Generational differences are on full display as gender affirmation and sexual harassment come into play.

With all the drama, you might think this movie would drag on, but wit and humor along the way keep us emotionally invested. Let’s just say while watching All Happy Families you well may be reminded of your own dysfunctional family holiday get-togethers.

:: Gary & Taffy Gonzalez

The screening of All Happy Families (run time 90 minutes) at the SLO International Film Festival is sponsored by Biz Steinberg in memory of Howard Steinberg.