This year, The Perfect Family made a splash at the Tribeca Film Festival. The dramatic comedy follows a rigid and conservative matriarch coming to terms with a family whose members have a mind of their own — including a pregnant lesbian daughter who is about to marry her partner.
AfterEllen.com recently spoke with The Perfect Family‘s out director Anne Renton about the reasons she decided to tell this story, what it was like working with Kathleen Turner, and the future of the film.
AfterEllen.com: Can you summarize The Perfect Family in your own words?
Anne Renton: The film is a comedy drama about a mother, Eileen Cleary, who is busy navigating her own life whilst trying to keep her husband and two grown children in line with what her beliefs are. When her son and daughter choose to live their own lives, she challenges them, which naturally leads to a great deal of conflict. Ultimately Eileen has to examine herself and her choices and make a decision about what is truly important in life.
AE: Why did you decide to tell this story? When you read the screenplay, what resonated with you the most?
AR: I was traveling on a plane when I first read the screenplay for The Perfect Family. It made me both laugh and cry, so to have that level of extreme emotion in a public place made me realize I had a strong story on my hands. The issues in the script and the emotional ups and downs felt very realistic to me. Even though the specific issues may differ in individual families, I felt like the overarching themes of the script were very relatable and that this was an important story to tell.
AE: As an out lesbian, did you identify with the character of [lesbian] Shannon Cleary at all, or did you grow up in a family and/or church that was more supportive?
AR: I think many people, as they grow up, go though the experience of feeling like they don’t meet their parents’ or society’s expectations for many different reasons. Sometimes it is real and sometimes it may be a projection, but either way it has an impact. I identified with aspects of Shannon’s character, but it was the universal feel of the family dynamics that spoke to me in the script.
AE: People don’t want to be preached to. This film handles issues like same sex marriage and gay adoption with viewpoints from both sides. On one hand, it seems obvious to many of us that marriage, no matter what your gender, is what it is — two people committing to each other for life out of love. But you also see that it is difficult for some people from another era or people who have been so indoctrinated by the church to wrap their heads around something like same sex marriage or adoption. Do think that this film will help educate those that may have problems coming to terms with these issues by including Eileen Cleary’s viewpoint and the reasons behind it? Or more specifically, that social conservatives may identify with Eileen’s character and become more willing to open their minds?
AR: I certainly hope that the film has the potential to support creating dialogue and perhaps more openness in individuals and families. When you set out to create a project you do it to tell a story. This one is of Eileen and her individual journey with her family. The story has both humor and heart. I hope people can relate to Eileen, her convictions, her struggles and her imperfections.
AE: You were able to assemble an amazing cast. I mean, Kathleen Turner — wow. And Richard Chamberlain, Emily Deschanel, Jason Ritter, and more. How was it working with such a group of seasoned actors?
AR: Yes! Thank you! I feel so fortunate with all the amazing cast in this film. It was such a pleasure to work with Kathleen Turner. She was totally up for everything from the driving scenes to doing her own stunt in the film.Very impressive! Kathleen brought her profound wisdom, experience and professionalism and devotedly supported all that was going during our tight production schedule. She is a gem!
All of the cast really responded to the material and showed up and gave their all to our indie production. It was wonderful to work with such seasoned actors as it facilitated things to run smoothly and efficiently.
AE: Who was your favorite actor to work with?
AR: I am grateful for my entire cast!
AE: What is the most important message you want audiences to take away from this film?
AR: I see some of the key messages of the film being about the importance of love and acceptance within our families, and hopefully by osmosis the larger global community, too. It shows the importance of being willing to communicate the truth about one’s life, even if it is perceived that one will not be accepted, because unless the truth is spoken, there is no possibility that change will occur. It expresses that if you can show up fully for yourself and be willing to examine where things are not in alignment, a shift is inevitable.
AE: Where will audiences be able to see this film next?