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Family Interaction Through the Motion Pictures


American culture is expressed in a liberal form and family interaction is viewed in an independent perspective. It is a common thing that the children live separately from their parents when they reach the right age. There are a lot of myths that is associated to how a family is construed. Accordingly, normal families attribute the middle-class group which is comprised of a legally married couple, the children and a pet. There are various kinds of families indeed such as a single-parent family, two-parent family, and step-family and so on. The family members though somehow base their attitudes and ideologies on the culture and this becomes the basis on how families are evaluated (Putnam, 2000).

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In reality, family interaction is regarded as a nostalgic construction. Mostly, Americans marry because of their love to their partner and want to establish a good and perfect family. But, the feelings of love and intimacy somehow vanish after the couple married and been together for quite some time. When interaction between the couples reveal the realities such as getting sick and tired of the usual things that they do, romantic sides of their relationship is covered by the complexities of cultural perspectives that are difficult to manage (Folbre, 2001).

It is known that family interaction is important to make the family last. Conflict resolution can be easily made if the family members will be able to spend time for a companionate talk though. To look into the different picture of family interaction, American films have depicted these family ideals through the motion pictures that they have produced throughout the years and these are good examples to view the family interaction in a more realistic one.


Analyzing the following films; The Ice Strom (Lee, 1997), The Slums of Beverly Hills (Jenkins, 1998), Capturing the Friedmans (Jarecki, 2003), The Joy Luck Club (Wang, 1993) and Raising Arizona (Coen, 1987), will be able to share the ideas that the stories of each film presents.

The Ice Strom (Lee, 1997)

Originally, The Ice Storm is a drama film which is based on the novel of Rick Moody that is entitled the same name. Significant characters in the story are comprised of the following; Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood and Sigourney Weaver. The story is all about the two dysfunctional families that is facing a political struggle and deals with the social changes during the 1970s era. They have tried adultery and sexual experimentation in order to deal with these dilemmas in the society. The title of the film is inspired by a weather that put the community in chaos where electricity is cut and hope seemed to be vague (Moody, 1994).

Narrating the story in detail, the film started showing the pop culture in 1970s. It stars the Hood family as follows; Elena played by Joan Allen, Ben played by Kevin Kline and their children Paul and Wendy who are portrayed by Tobey Maguire and Christina Ricci. Other casts include another family who are the Carvers; Jim and Janey played by Jamey Sheridan and Sigourney Weaver, Mikey and Sandy played by Elijah Wood and Adam Hann- Byrd, respectively (Moody, 1994).

The portrayals of the family are not like a family living in a home as they do not establish a good rapport with each other. The parents do not talk to their children; hence a good communication is dismissed in the story. A parent who commits adultery, the children regardless of their age fornicates with their peers and takes drugs, and violence revolves around the story is hopeless. The two families portrayed a family that reveals the results of lack communication with each family member and thus make it more complicated to identify the problems that they face. Ben Hood has an affair with Janey; Paul is into drugs, while Elena and her daughter Wendy is caught shoplifting. Jim is unaware of the things that are happening in his home because of his job as he is always away; Janey has an affair with Ben, while their children are into violence. Having sexual experiences with other men, it had been one of the biggest deals that the characters in the story faced (Moody, 1994).

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Relating the real essence of family interaction in the film directly points out the absence of communication with each of them. The parents are obviously unaware of what is happening with each other’s lives and results to the consequences that the children faced. Attitude and behavior of the children should always start from home (Pine, 2002). How the children reacted in the film just reflects what they see from the outside world due to the absence of guidance from their parents, and what they see in their parents perhaps. Looking into the picture, the film shows how family interacts with each other normally but it should always be noted that an open communication is needed in order to understand what each member of the family is going through. The scenarios being depicted in the story just reflects how independent the people in the community are and interaction with their own family is somehow dissented. Thus, family interaction in The Ice Storm is the main root of all the problems that they faced. However, the death of Mikey somehow made them realize that they are into these dilemmas unconsciously (Moody, 1994). It is disappointing that a death will be the realizing point in one’s life and regrets will come into the way before the family adheres to the fact that they do not really act as a family and that they need an open communication to strengthen their bonding. This can be viewed as the dark side of the family interaction which shows the images of the violence and distortions on what an ideal family should prevail.

Slums of Beverly Hills (Jenkins, 1998)

The next film that depicts family interaction is the Slums the Beverly Hills. The story of the film revolves around the teenage girl who deals with the people in her environment and tries to analyze things out amidst of many circumstances. The family of Vivian is poor and has no permanent house so they move from one apartment to another just to have a place. Family interaction in the story covers not just her own family but also other significant characters in the story like her uncle’s family and the people around the community. It can be seen that the family of Vivian maintains a good relationship with each other and less drama is attributed to it compared to The Ice Storm. The family interacts in a smooth form and deals with the problems completely out of violence and establishes a good rapport with one another just like the scene where they have decided to stop over in a steak house.

It is explicitly conveyed in the story that each character deals with their own problems and complexities but still, they manage to adapt to their environment. Vivian’s father Murray and her brothers, the first one who aspires to be good in show business and the other one who needs attention also played significant roles in maintaining interaction in the family (Berardinelli,1998). Everything seemed to be good in the scenarios shown but apparently, living with other people and depending on Murray’s brother, Mickey paved the way for them to move out again. The portrayed relationships between the characters in the story have come to an end for they have to move to another apartment and eliminate their hope from the support given by Mickey. Through their arguments, the interaction between them becomes intense which lead Murray to decide to live their own lives separate and independent from Mickey.

The external factors or the other characters in the story directly affected the whole family of Vivian because they depend on Mickey. Consequently, it had been a big deal for the family to think that they are nomads though but still maintains a good relationship with each other (Zheng, 2000). The story goes smoothly as the characters did not show violent actions unlike the first example, The Ice Storm.

Capturing the Friedmans (Jarecki, 2003)

In 2003, a documentary film was directed by Andrew Jarecki starring the real-life story of Arnold Friedman. It is all about sexual abuses by which Arnold is engaged as well as his son Jesse. Court trials were made and Arnold Friedman has been proven guilty (Turan, 2003).

Family interaction throughout the documentation of the film revealed during the investigation and the movie showed how the family interacted during the family dinners and the arguments that prevailed among them. Characters such as the wife and son of Friedman played significant roles in the story. There are different circumstances that need to be considered in viewing the interactions that revolves in the story not just in the family of Friedman but also to his non- relative family such as the computer class. The children from the computer class can be described as Arnold’s family as well where dark interaction occurred due to the molestations that are being reported and caused him to be under surveillance (Turan, 2003). The whole family has been affected by the case of Arnold and most importantly every single aspect of their living is affected all thorough out the investigation. The good relationship of the family has been destroyed by the actions made by Arnold as well as his son, Jesse. As how the film run through the lives of each member of the family, nothing wrong is depicted until the failure of Arnold came.

The family has been affected by the case and almost all the names of the family members have been put into risk and embarrassment. It is such a shame for the family to learn that the head of the family is a pedophile, in addition to; the son is involved in the prevailing case. The head of the family should be the one who will initiate the good acts that the children will adapt to. However, in the case of Arnold, he initiated doing the wrong move and thus this is reflected to his son Jesse (Turan, 2003). Arnold’s mistake is the focus of the story and family interaction in this sense is messed up especially during the times when the process of investigation is going through.

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The Joy Luck Club (Wang, 1993)

This film is all about the things that the Chinese-American women have to deal. The story goes like the significant characters are Chinese immigrants who live in San Francisco and each of them has Chinese- American daughters. The story showed the identities of the women in their past and distinguishes the gap and cultural differences that they have to deal. This is essentially on the part of raising their daughters who are partly influenced by the American culture.

The movie depicted how the cultural differences affected the family interactions and a gap is then drawn on the way the relationship of the mothers to their daughters prevails. Though this might seem to be a kind of stereotyping for the cultures of America and Asia, it still recognizes an important aspect to consider on adhering the things and various ideals in the movie. Difficulties in dealing with liberal thinking arise for the Chinese mothers while they insist preserving their Chinese culture (Tan, 2008).

The movie caters to the communication between the characters. Communication is important in a family though but in reality, it is very hard to achieve. The differences of each character in culture reflect their personality, attitude and behavior, as well as their styles of communicating. There are times where in a realization will come to a person thinking that it is a good idea to let the issues find its way before reacting in order to maintain a good communication. However, sometimes the absence of communication cannot settle a problem because it needs to be talked and discuss which get in the way of the everyday living of the characters involved.

Raising Arizona (Coen, 1987)

A comedy film starring Nicolas Cage as “Hi” showed a very interesting family story. Hi has been convicted many times and there he met “Ed” who is a policewoman. HI proposed to Ed and apparently they married and started living a life in a dessert. The first years seemed to be a normal newly-wed couple but things have changed when they found out that Ed is incapable of giving birth. Having a child is what they really want and they are ready to do anything just to have a baby (Mayhan, 1987). In their community, a rich man’s wife has given birth to a quintuplet and this gave them hope and idea of having a baby. They cannot think of other reasons aside from stealing one of the quintuplets because of their situations; Ed is infertile while Hi has been convicted a lot of times and thus the court did not allow them to adopt a baby (Simon, 1987). A lot of actions have taken place in the movie such as stealing a baby diaper, battling with the villains and other sarcasms that the movie depicted through the imageries that they used (Barth, 1987). The story ended by giving back the baby to the real parents and realizing that no matter what happens, they are still a couple and hopes should not be dismissed.

This probably serves as the concrete example of how important the roles of the children play in a family. The children serve as the joy and happiness in a home and a family cannot be called a family without a child in some senses. In the film, the story centers to the adventure of the couples in seeking a baby and assuming that it would be the answer to all their problems of being used to the usual thing in their everyday lives (Lewis, 2001). They need a baby to save their relationship and separating their ways. It is also depicted in the film that the baby opens the communication between the couples and sets the mood for having a good interaction between Ed and Hi. Thus, a baby is really vital to every relationship in order to keep it brimming with happiness and love. The couple is largely affected by the absence of a baby for they thought having a baby is the essence of their relationship which is somehow true.


As depicted in each movie being described, each member of the family plays different roles. Each member has its own responsibility and expectation for the circumstances that may arise in the family. However, roles may vary depending on how it is seen by other family member whether a relative or a non-relative member of the family. Thus, these varying senses may be apparent to the occurrence of frustrations and confusions.

Generally, communication is seen to be the center of the films being described and the given scenarios are affected by the way the family communicates with each other. Communication needs to be comprehended in a deeper manner in order to know the grounds that need to be considered by each family member (Watters, 2003). Interpersonal skills, establishing a good rapport and being a good listener should also prevail. Interpersonal skills accounts to the interaction of each family member with each other and efficiency of this detail may lead people at ease. Encouragement of sharing the feelings of each other is a good way of opening the lines of communication between the members of the family (Family Communication, 2000). A companionate talk is also an effective way of relating to the situations of each other in order to discover what is happening in one’s life. This can be done through establishing a good rapport to have a connection and relate to one’s level of personality. A rapport means understanding the way of one’s life and developing intimacy in a relationship. Doing this can be best initiated by showing interest on what others show and knowing the details behind it. Showing importance to the opinions and ideas of others is a big deal in family interactions most especially between couples and the relationship of the parents to the children.

Being a good listener sometimes says it all and covers up other important factors. Listening to the needs of the family can be shown through verbal and non verbal communication. Affection can sometimes be a way of listening to a person and thus this encourage a continuous interaction within a family. Interpreting what someone said, maintaining an accurate tone of voice and nonverbal cues can be a form of listening. Repeating or rephrasing what a person has said can be the best proof that you actively listen to what the person is saying. It will more likely appear that attentive listening is a way of saying a person you are listening to is important. As such, conversations in a family should comprise of listening more than talking to avoid arguments. Also, the tone of voice should be maintained in a conversational form most especially when dealing with delicate issues to avoid misunderstandings (Family Communication, 2000). Another important consideration for managing a good communication in a family is the use of actions. Sense of touch can also be an effective way of maintaining a good relationship within a family and this greatly depicts comfort.

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Family interactions in the films discussed presents the different approaches that everyone should anticipate. The films serve as a good example for analyzing the problems encountered in the films and are able to discover the things that are needed to consider in developing a harmonious relationship in the family. The events that happen in a family are natural outcomes of what has been done just like the ‘influencers’ that greatly affects the behavior of a person. Having a perfect family is what every people dreamt of in this world because it is considered as the most important stage in one’s life. Treating each other with respect can affect the family interactions through different circumstances. The key factors of having a good communication in a family is the most effective technique of keeping family interactions in a healthy and happy living.


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