Family Romance LLC

Family Romance LLC

Director: Werner Herzog

Runtime: 1hr 29min

Cast: Cast: Ishii Yuichi, Mahiro Tanimoto

Synopsis: Love is a business at Family Romance LLC, a company that rents human stand-ins for any occasion. Founder Yuichi Ishii helps make his clients’ dreams come true. But when the mother of 12-year-old Mahiro hires Ishii to impersonate her missing father, the line between acting and reality threatens to blur.


Veteran German auteur Werner Herzog premiered Family Romance LLC in the Special Screenings section at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.

Ishii Yuichi is the real-life proprietor of the eponymous Japanese company that gives this drama its title. Yuichi and his handful of associates will impersonate whoever their clients want them to be.

In a world where technology increasingly satisfies all desires, human contact — even if it is false and imitated in some way – still seems necessary.

Family Romance LLC opens with Yuichi, smartly dressed, waiting in a busy street. He spots and approaches a miserable-looking teenage girl.  “I knew it was you right away,” he tells the girl, Mahiro. On this assignment, he is the father the girl had never known.

Soon we learn Yuichi has a rigorous work ethic, consulting the girl’s mother later to present his bill and expenses and review the job progress. The woman tells him Mahiro’s real father has a twitch in his eye, but Yuichi insists that it is counterproductive to the desired emotional effect to recreate such tics.

Reality bites when, unfortunately Yuichi’s behaviour starts to go against his own company policy. Will he tell Mahiro the truth or become her actual father?

Herzog’s enigmatic docu-drama casts non-professional actors from the real Family Romance LLC, with Yuichi auditioning his staff for roles, eventually taking the lead himself.

The film’s stunning video cinematography was shot – by Herzog himself – in the spring and summer of 2018 from his own script, with beautiful vistas of Tokyo and Aomori Prefecture, Japan and giving glimpses of Japan’s fascinating culture.

Family Romance LLC examines a business in Japan in which patrons can rent stand-in actors to pose as family members for any occasion. If you are embarrassed about your father’s drunkenness, facing disciplinary action, need family, friends, followers or even a corpse at a funeral – anything is available, at a price. Tragic, comic, tragicomic and just bizarre tasks are professionally executed by Yuichi and colleagues.

Set to an atmospheric score composed by Ernst Reijseger, this apparently strange world has its common theme of lonely individuals chasing impossible dreams in a fragmented society where much of family and other relationships have depended on role-playing and dissembling.

Werner Herzog calls Family Romance LLC  one of his “essential films” that reveals “our human condition” in a recent interview, saying that it is as important to our understanding of the human experience as is his masterpiece Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972).

He warns: “I think we should be very cautious with trying to find a category and squeeze [this film] into it…One thing is clear. It is one of my essential films out of a handful of very essential things that look deep into our human condition.”

Although there is no judgment in Herzog’s eye, the viewer may question the role of illusion, and the connection between the robotics at the futuristic hotel which Yuichi visits and cinema itself.

Streaming on MUBI

Images courtesy of: Modern Films