From left, Goran Bogdan, Roko Sikavica and Ivana Roscic greet "The Uncle." Photo courtesy of Fantastic Fest
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- The Croatian movie The Uncle, which screened at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, begins as what appears to be a dysfunctional family drama. The further it explores the family scenario, the more disturbing it becomes.
Majka (Ivana Roscic), her husband Otac (Goran Bogdan) and their son, Sin (Roko Sikavica) prepare for a visit. When Sin's uncle, Stric (Predrag "Miki" Manjolovic) arrives on Christmas Day, they spend it watching home movies, dancing and eating turkey.
Stric seems a little judgmental, criticizing Sin's attire and his parents for allowing it, but otherwise it seems like a normal visit. Perhaps Stric is more complimentary of his brother's wife than he should be but he doesn't appear to cross any lines.
After Stric leaves, the family resets and repeats Christmas Day. Stric arrives for a visit again, only with some differences in which characters participate in which activities or say certain lines.
Writer/directors David Kapac and Andrija Mardesic teach the viewer the routine so that any time the routine alters, it becomes tense. But each visit includes some iteration of a conversation about Sin's growth, watching the Christmas video, dancing to a song, playing with a toy gun and the turkey dinner.
When it becomes clear why the family keeps indulging this daily Christmas, their struggles to make it through the post-dinner dance become even more tense. A few scenes in between uncle visits show the toll it is taking on Majka, Otac and Sin.
Some sexual interludes in subsequent visits are uncomfortable, as they are meant to be. Stric is pushing his "family"'s obedience to uncomfortable degrees.
The Uncle is a high concept drama about a family repeating Christmas. That scenario itself is interesting, and the further details that unravel make The Uncle a dark version of coming home for the holidays.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.