Family Law
opens with 30-something Ariel Perelman (Daniel Hendler) relating his father's maxim for happiness: "A man is free when he can read his paper and eat his breakfast without having to talk to anyone." The father is named Bernardo Perelman (Arturo Goetz), but is referred to throughout the film only as "Perelman," as if the name is a title that the son will have to earn in order to claim it as his own. The Perelmans are professional Argentinian Jews, balancing various careers and commitments and lifestyle choices, some more successfully than others. Ariel is prone to talking himself out of happiness and perplexed at some of the absurdities of modern city living. When he scoffs at the request of his child's kindergarten teacher that he participate in a play, she offers to have someone help him with his "communication problem." A tense discussion with his wife is interrupted by a house painter, who offers some unwanted input. Unlike his father, Ariel hasn't yet found his 'secret of life', like that morning ritual of peaceful reading over breakfast.

Ariel's wife, Sandra (29-year old Julieta Diaz, a real find who should get more work) is a Pilates instructor who has learned to mostly ignore his nebbishness. In bed, with the lights out, his mumbling never stops: "Why do we have to give our son a Swiss education? Do you know what the Swiss did during World War II?" When he comes home one day to find her packing some bags, he blurts out his first thought: "You're leaving me?" During the day, Ariel is a legal ethics professor who doles out philosophical ruminations like "If someone is drowning and I kick a life belt away from him, is that murder? Tough one." Eventually, his fine-tuned world of grumbling and second-guessing will be rocked when his wife insists on taking off for an unplanned vacation -- without him -- and evidence begins to build of the father keeping an important secret from the son. The central performance by Hendler keeps the delicate engine of the film humming along throughout these transitions. He creates a character that is believably anchored to the story.