Director/Screenplay – Koichi Imaizumi, Producers – Koichi Imaizumi & Hiroki Iwasa, Photography – Hiroki Taguchi, Music – Peixe-eletrico. Production Company – Habakari Cinema Records.
Ryosuke Kanba, Hotaru, Jinta Fujimaru, Koji Kaji, Daisuke Todaka, Koichi Imaizumi, Kiyomi Ito)
In the Kanba household, the grandfather Koichi lives with his son Shusaku and his three boys. Shusaku’s wife reacts in horror after discovering him having sex with his father. Shusaku is a biologist and explains to her that his father is the carrier of a so-far undiscovered virus that has infected the rest of them and made them want to have sex with only the grandfather. At the same time, the virus also prevents any of them from growing any older. After she leaves, the men takes turns having sex with the grandfather.
The Family Complete is the third film from Japanese director Koichi Imaizumi. Imaizumi is gay and his other films Naughty Boys (2002), First Love (2007), The Secret to My Silky Skin (2014) and Berlin Drifters (2017) circle around gay subject matter. The Family Complete is no different in this regard and gained some controversy for its upfront depiction of gay sex – Koichi Imaizumi received a few audible gasps at the Q&A session after the Vancouver Film Festival screening when he casually mentioned that all the sex scenes were real and not faked. (He himself plays the role of the grandfather who becomes the object of lust of every person in the household – a move that seems not unakin to the ever-so-slightly self-inflated casting that went on in Lady in the Water (2006) where writer-director M. Night Shyamalan cast himself as a great writer who would change the world).
I was attracted to The Family Complete due to its science-fictional premise about a virus that causes everyone who comes into contact with the prime carrier to develop a compulsion to have sex with only that person and never grow any older. The festival program notes also described it as having a considerable taboo charge in being upfront about what it shows, not to mention that all of the sexual relations are not only gay but also incestual.
All of that said, The Family Complete is a tedious film. I need to be careful here. I don’t want this to read as the straight critic getting intolerant and reacting in abhorrence to seeing frankly depicted gay sex scenes on the screen. I have no problem with any of that. More to the point, the so-called gay sex controversy is a complete non-issue. There are one or two tumblings, nothing graphic, a couple of erection shots and that is about that. Oddly, Koichi Imaizumi seems to invest more erotic interest in an earlier straight scene with the wife bringing home a mask with a large dildo-shaped nose and making the husband fellate this and then later rectally violating him with it than he does any of the gay sex scenes. Certainly, this has to be the dullest taboo-breaking film I have ever sat down to watch.
The other major problem I had with The Family Complete is that while it nominally has a science-fictional idea about a virus, Koichi Imaizumi seems to have no idea whatsoever in how to develop this as an idea or present it with a dramatic structure. The entire film seems to take place without any sense of direction. For much of it, you sit disinterestedly watching the mundane day-to-day lives of the characters and asking yourself “what is this film meant to be about, what is Imaizumi trying to say with it?” Is it a film trying to shock us, trying to depict gay life, or else present some kind of alternate to family life? I can honestly say I have no idea. Things happen – nothing much different seems to have transpired by the end of the film than it does from the start with the exception of the wife leaving and the other son returning home. There is also a confused ending where everybody ends up slaughtered and then we jump on a few years to where the surviving son now has his own son who appears to be infected too at the fade out.