3 Stars (out of 4)
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I tried to write my review of We Are Family right after seeing it yesterday, but I was too drained. The movie — a remake of the 1998 Hollywood film Stepmom — has a depressing enough premise, but it goes all out to maximize the waterworks.
The remake’s star cast is anchored by Kajol. She plays Maya, a divorced mother of three kids who’s not quite over her globetrotting photographer ex-husband, Aman (Arjun Rampal). When Aman brings his new girlfriend, Shreya (Kareena Kapoor) to his youngest child’s birthday party, Maya and the kids immediately despise her.
When Shreya inadvertently endangers the youngest daughter, Anjali (Diya Sonecha), Maya forbids her from ever seeing the kids again. Maya then discloses to Aman — on the condition of secrecy — that she has cervical cancer. He agrees to move back home to help out and dumps Shreya with no explanation. Everyone is miserable.
Shreya drops by with a present for Anjali, and Maya decides that, if she succumbs to cancer, her kids are going to need a replacement mom. She tells Shreya about her medical condition and asks her to move into the house. This allows Maya to supervise Shreya’s training in the motherly arts.
Career-girl Shreya has little aptitude for childcare, and Maya is hard on her. The kids begin to warm up to their stepmom-in-training, irritating Maya, even though it was she who invited Shreya back into her kids’ lives.
Kajol and Kapoor both give incredible performances. They convey so much with just a look. The movie is primarily about two women trying to understand their roles in a complicated family, and the most touching moments are between Maya and Shreya.
Rampal manages to keep Aman from becoming a villain. He’s unreliable, but he’s not a bad guy. The kids’ parts are similarly well-acted, especially considering how irritating child actors can be. Little Anjali and her older brother, Ankush (Nominath Ginsburg), are curious, without being too wise for their years.
The break-out star of the movie is Aanchal Munjal, who plays teenage daughter Aleya. Her home life gets turned upside down right at the age when she’s transitioning into young adulthood, a challenging task under the best of circumstances. Munjal plays Aleya as resentful, but not wholly without reason, and not without empathy.
The movie falls apart in the final act, when Maya’s condition worsens. At that point, the film becomes an orgy of grief. There are multiple scenes involving crying children, clearly designed to provoke sympathetic tears in the audience. The ploy works the first several times, but eventually loses its effectiveness.
After the movie was over, I had a headache from all of the crying (my own and the characters’) and just wanted to take a nap. It was 3 p.m. My Friday night was already ruined.