A man is hired to impersonate the missing father of a young girl.
Werner Herzog’s latest film is an odd movie about an odd topic, focusing on Yuichi Ishii, a Japanese man who runs a Tokyo based rental agency called Family Romance. Family Romance is an agency that hires out people for various functions, notably to stand in for deceased family members at social functions, but also to provide companionship for a variety of scenarios. As the film goes on to show, this can range from acting as a surrogate father to a 12-year-old child, to standing in for an employee who is due to be berated for a mistake he made at work.
Family Romance is a real business, ran by the real Yuichi Ishii, whilst ‘Family Romance, LLC’ is a work of fiction, albeit one that focuses on this real business and has Ishii playing a version of himself. It’s a strange concoction and Herzog films the drama in the style of a documentary, lending a greater intimacy to the way his narrative plays out. The line between documentary and fiction drama is straddled throughout and it raises more questions than it answers about this type of business – a disappointing post watch Q&A on MUBI doesn’t shed much more light. With Ishii playing himself, is he accurately depicting the day to day workings of his business, or is he exaggerating or downplaying what Family Romance does? The lack of answers is understandable, yet frustrating, and by the conclusion of the film we don’t have any greater insight into this strange practice.
‘Family Romance, LLC’ is the latest Herzog detour into strange little pockets of culture in different parts of the globe and it’s an intriguing watch, but I felt I had learned very little by the end about what drives this practice and that distance has the film ultimately falling short for me.
Directed By: Werner Herzog
Starring: Yuichi Ishii and Mahiro Tanimoto