Two octogenarian parents are enlisted to drive their adult daughter to work one day. The commute may be short, but the list of long-simmering resentments and tensions is long, and the ride proves anything but easygoing as the family travels together in close proximity.
Directors Joe Stankus and Ashley Connor use a blend of documentary and fiction film techniques to create a unique hybrid film, creating a narrative based on very real familial conflicts and dynamics.
All the performers are non-actors: in fact, they are family members of the filmmakers themselves, who enlisted them to portray themselves in a fictional scenario. However, the performers were not given a script or even a story, responding instead to cues and directions as they were given. They’re captured in naturalistic, handheld camera movement that is a hallmark of projects as diverse as the Maysles brothers’s “direct cinema” documentaries and fiction films like “The Blair Witch Project.”
But while the performers are acting out a story, they’re still performing themselves, and the result is an intriguing mix of real life and narrative that blurs the very idea of reality. The onscreen story may be made up, but the feelings and dynamics between the family members are very real — and very relatably funny at times.
“The Backseat” is both deeply funny and familiar in its neuroses as an engaging portrait of complex family life. The deep sense of obligation and connection are enduring, and so is the intensity that these can hold upon people. But the bonds that weave it all together are full of love, which is why they weigh so heavily, why they’re so difficult to break and why they give such meaning to human existence.