“I just want to say I’m so glad Mom didn’t die of Covid,” said Bobby Worth (Henry Winkler) in “Family Squares,” a movie told via FaceTime, Zoom and phone calls just before and after the death of the victim. matriarch of the Worth family, Mabel (June Squibb).
That a dying loved one has dodged the virus may come as little comfort to the mourners, but it’s this very plot point that allows Stephanie Laing, the writer and director, to make fun of our shared pandemic predicament. Her film is a light-hearted and moving look at the feuds, resentments and secrets that can surface when someone dies.
The film underlines the idea that it is never too late to tell the truth or mend ruptured bonds. In videos played after her death, Mabel urges her descendants to mend their broken relationships.
The star-studded cast is introduced to a frenetic grid: the faces include Mabel’s son, Bobby; daughter, Diane (Margo Martindale); late-in-life partner, Judith (Ann Dowd); and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
After less than a minute of virtual chat, a grandson, Robert (Billy Magnussen), a whistleblower hiding in Russia, suggests they raise their hands if they want to speak; the others respond with mocking middle fingers.
The inherent awkwardness of Zoom interactions gives rise to other funny moments, such as Cassie’s (Elsie Fisher) decision to stay with Mabel’s body “until the free session runs out”. When she’s still there a while later, her father asks incredulously, “How did it not go?” (She upgraded to a premium account using his credit card.)
Laings writes sharply, draws lively characters and exposes the tensions in the family through a biting dialogue. For example, a granddaughter, Dorsey (Judy Greer), says during a dig at her sister, Katie (Casey Wilson), “Your kitchen looks really nice. How much did Grandma spend on that remodel?”
Filmed during 2020 quarantine, “Family Squares uses the communication tools of the pandemic era to deliver a movie with the intimacy of a home movie, while still exploring the chaos and limitations of technology.
Rated R for language. Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes. In theaters and for rent or sale on Amazon, Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.