Francis may be the lead protagonist in “Blood Relatives,” his debut feature as a director, but he’s not the real star. That would be Victoria Moroles, who plays Jane, Francis’ moody and inquisitive daughter. Most of “Blood Relatives” concerns Jane’s frustrated attempts at bonding with and being accepted by her father. It’s exciting to see Segan not only develop Moroles’ character but also frequently let her steal scenes from him. That’s probably the most surprising thing about Segan’s movie: it’s a two-hander that leans more heavily on its co-lead than its multihyphenate star.
Segan deliberately refuses to play to his strengths as Francis, a neurotic character whose predatory mystique is constantly challenged and second-guessed by secondary characters. Because optics matter, as one character puts it, whether we like it or not, and blasting Wagner’s “Gotterdamerung” in your flashy car tends to draw attention, even at the edge of town.
In this tongue-in-cheek way, Segan gets some mileage out of Francis’ obvious behavior by playing with our generic expectations. So Francis asks for permission before entering any building, because he’s a vampire. He also tries to be polite whenever addressing various human characters, because he’s a nice Jewish boy, no matter how many centuries old.
Jane doesn’t care about any of that. She cuts Francis down to size with a quick, true-crime-podcast-ready spiel about how he met her late mother. Then Jane inserts herself into Francis’ life, despite his whiny protests. “Sorry if this doesn’t fit your narrative,” she shrugs. Moroles is very good with that particular combination of snappy pouting and matter-of-fact sass.
Segan also did well to play to his co-lead’s strengths, which carries “Blood Relatives” during its emotionally muted scenes. Francis drives himself and his daughter around, and she repeatedly proves that she doesn’t need him in the ways that he thinks she does. Because his loaded expectations are usually based on a total lack of experience, as a parent and a social creature, so Francis often plays to a type that he only selectively fits.
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