Netflix’s A Family Affair: Is the Movie Rooted in Reality?

Image Credit: Aaron Epstein/Netflix

When the personal assistant of a narcissistic actor learns about her boss’ romantic fling with her mother, she faces the difficult choice of breaking it up or letting it run its course in the Netflix comedy, ‘A Family Affair.’ In this Richard LaGravenese directorial, Zara Ford is stunned to discover a relationship between her mother, Brooke Harwood, and her thespian boss, Chris Cole. Privy to all his dark and mischievous secrets as a man who plays with women’s hearts, she has to toe the line between allowing them their privacy or stopping things before her mother gets hurt.

‘A Family Affair’ flips the script on the well-versed romantic narrative where enemies turn to lovers by placing Zara in direct opposition to her boss, Chris, but does not attempt to establish a relationship between the two. Instead, in a fresh take, the budding protagonist’s mother is involved in a secret union with her daughter’s boss. Through humorous and witty exchanges between Zara and Chris, the viewer is brought into an elevated world where norms are challenged in unexpected ways, prompting inquiries regarding the situations presented and whether the film is based on a real story.

A Family Affair Explores the Perspective of a 24-Year-Old Not Looking For Love

In a twist of events, the romance-centered narrative of ‘A Family Affair’ is a fictional tale about a woman who isn’t interested in or desperate to find a romantic companion. The film was written by Carrie Solomon when she was 24 years old, which gave her insight while drafting the character of her protagonist, Zara. In an interview, director Richard LaGravanese talked about his impression of the writer, “I’m clearly not a millennial, and she [Carrier Solomon] understood and showed me something I didn’t understand about the point of view of the character. She was really adamant about the character not having any romantic or boyfriend or male idea.”

Image Credit: Tina Rowden/Netflix

According to Solomon, the entire point of the narrative is to zoom in on Zara and her efforts at finding her place in the world. This resonated with the writer’s own experiences in life. Despite the presence of her self-centered boss, Chris, who has had many romantic forays with other women, Zara is entirely uninterested in him. Adding on this theme, Joey King, who plays Zara, told Netflix Tudum, “The whole script started as an exercise in trying to write a story about a girl in her 20s that didn’t revolve around her own love life. I really wanted to tell the story of a girl stuck in the middle of a horrendous personal situation that had nothing to do with her own sex life, which I think is something we don’t often see from women in their 20s on-screen.”

Instead of focusing on the woman’s love life, ‘A Family Affair’ keeps its attention on the interpersonal relationships between mother and daughter, assistant and boss, and the bond with Eugenie, Zara’s close friend. King was enthusiastic about exploring those parts of the narrative, including the protagonist’s drive to pursue her career over marriage or boyfriends. Despite its light-hearted tone, it also brings to the fore the different aspects of being a woman, including the challenge of balancing love, profession, and taking care of your parents. It’s a challenge for Zara to juggle all her priorities while maintaining a great support base around her.

Liza Koshy, who plays Eugenie, elaborated on the scenario of Zara witnessing her mother and boss dating each other. “For a young woman to separate herself from the role of daughter and see her mother as a whole woman and allow her to enjoy her womanly desires is hard,” she said. “This is such a great, loving example of what conversations can look like at your own kitchen table too.” While awkward and difficult to explain, these challenges are also the basis of several laughs and giggles, as humor is baked into the interactions between Zara, her mother, and Chris, who is always full of himself.

A Family Affair is Inspired by Comedies From the Past

While subverting expectations through its central conceit of a woman trying to stop her mother and boss from falling in love, director Richard LaGravenese also found inspiration for ‘A Family Affair’ from other films, specifically comedies. He said, “Well, my favorite films are the old, the screwball comedies of the thirties and forties, and a lot of them were improved. Leo McCarey and Howard Hawks, and I wanted to bring that vibe to it. Joey and Zach understood it immediately. The two of them had a really great time in their scenes where they just riff off of the script and they were just really, really smart at it.”

Image Credit: Tina Rowden/Netflix

As a result of its premise, the comical aspects of the narrative are accentuated further through the banter at play between Zara and Chris. The two do not see eye-to-eye, especially with regard to Zara’s mother. Instead of growing to like him, the young protagonist has to face the real prospect of her mother’s happiness and whether her interference is good in the overall picture after all. The fictional tale of ‘A Family Affair’ delves into these complex challenges while maintaining its comedic edge, offering a unique perspective into how people cope with the decisions of their loved ones while having no control over them.

Read more: A Family Affair: All Filming Locations of the Netflix Movie