With her own marriage in trouble Nina Eberlin (Kyra Sedgwick) returns home to see her mum Lainey (Anjelica Huston) whilst also paying her father David (Sam Neill) a visit. As she browses old family photos and reads her father's journal it takes her thoughts back to the 1950s when her parent's once happy and seemingly perfect marriage starts to fall apart after the birth of their third child Randall who at the age of two is diagnosed as being autistic. Despite having three more children Lainey feels more devoted to Randall which brings her into conflict with David who disagrees with her constant caring for him and thinks he should be sent away to a school which caters for children with special needs. As Lainey seeks solace in the bottle David embarks on various affairs eventually leading to their split and more family issues.
I have watched a few movies which deal with the subject of autism and unfortunately I rank "Family Pictures" down the pecking order, not because it is bad but because it is not really about autism. Nope instead what we are presented is a picture of the seemingly perfect American family who through a situation becomes dysfunctional with the situation being their autistic child which ends up dividing them. Now that doesn't mean that "Family Pictures" is a bad movie, in fact watched as a look at a dysfunctional family it is effective but when watched because you see the mention of an autistic child it is disappointing.
So what do we get in "Family Pictures"; well as I said we witness the fracturing of a family starting with Lainey and David who disagree with what should happen to their autistic son Randall with David believing he should for all sense and purpose be put into care. This disagreement causes arguments which leads to a loss of feeling between them and before you know it David is seeking affection else where. Meanwhile Lainey's need leads her to some extreme behaviour appearing to go over board in caring for Randall out of some sort of guilt.
But it is not just the effect on David and Lainey which we observe as we also see how it affects all the children especially the three daughters who came after the birth of Randall. We also see how Randall's older brother Mack really struggles with the battles between his parents and the treatment of Randall leading to issues in his own life later on.
All of which is an interesting look at a dysfunctional family and when you ignore the autistic aspect it is well acted from the extreme behaviour of Lainey to the more moody behaviour of David. As such Anjelica Huston and Sam Neill play their parts well bringing to life the marital issues. It is only when you bring in to account how they deal with an autistic child that it doesn't feel entirely believable. But as I said the actual autistic child is not the focus of the movie but in reality a mechanism for causing the dysfunction.
What this all boils down to is that "Family Pictures" is a curious movie as when you focus on the autistic part of the movie it is weak but the dysfunctional aspects of it are very strong with both Angelica Huston and Sam Neill doing a good job of playing a couple who are being torn apart by what they think is best.