In the movie the mother, Vivi, plays the main role in the executive family subsystem and the daughter, Sidda, plays the main role in the sibling subsystem. Throughout the movie it is told how their boundaries had been breached and severely weakened. The family is an alcoholic family with Vivi being the identified alcoholic. Vivi’s behavior affects her whole family but the focus is on the relationship with Sidda. The father plays an almost silent role in the family system until the sixth stage of Vivi’s life cycle. The siblings are shown in short clips in the movie to show the effects of Vivi’s behavior on them as children but not as adults, only the conflict with Sidda is played out in her adulthood.
Vivi, Teensy, Necie and Caro make up the Ya Ya Sisterhood that includes Sidda in the end. The women, Teensy, Necie and Caro, are not part of the family system but are extremely important to it. Throughout the movie the women are all a part of one another’s lives and help each other through lives transitions. Vivi is shown going through her life cycle changes and the women are together through it all.
The movie doesn’t show stage one clearly for Vivi and this actually makes sense because Vivian seems to have missed the first stage. She is in stage two of her life cycle and is trying to accept emotional responsibilities but she cannot. She marries Shep but this is not who she really wanted to marry. She wanted to marry Teensy’s brother but he died in the war and Shep was there for her at the time so he took his place. She always resented him (Shep) for being there.
In stage three of her life cycle she has her children with Sidda being the oldest of three. The Ya Ya sisters are with her through raising her children while Shep works. She frequently leaves home and can’t cope with being a wife or mother. She beats her children emotionally and physically due to alcohol abuse and being given drugs from a physician that she had a bad reaction to. Meanwhile Sidda has to grow up fast and care for the family. Sidda blames herself for the way that her mother is and just wants her mother to be happy.
In the fourth stage Vivi could not deal with the children or life in general so Sidda was unconsciously put in charge of the household. The more broken her mother became the more independent she had to become.
In stage five, as I stated previously, the movie doesn’t involve any of the children beyond childhood except Sidda in her adult years. Sidda became a writer and she dated the same man, Connor for several years. She was afraid to marry him because she didn’t want the life that her mother had or her children or husband to have what she had growing up. Vivi tells Connor that she understands why Sidda is the way that she is about relationships.
Stage six of Vivi’s life cycle is the “happy ending” to the movie. It took Vivian a long time and she had to swallow her pride to develop in this stage. Sidda and Ya Ya sisters opened her eyes she began to understand how she lived her life and knew she needed to bury some skeletons and let some of her past be revealed to her daughter. She started her with some changes to herself, then Shep and finally with Sidda. Sidda learned of the previous stages in her mother’s life cycle and her grandmother’s and was able to better understand and forgive her mother.
The movies ending is an equifinality for all involved in the family system and outside of it. Several critics that evaluated the movie posted on Rotten Tomatoes.com thought the movie was either non-realistic or condescending to mother daughter relationships. I found this to be surprising as this was not my take on it at all. The movie as a whole was realistic, obviously not to the majority of family systems because of the involvement of the sisterhood; which is not typical. However, many family systems do have outsiders involved. The mother daughter relationship does represent some real relationships especially for the oldest child. Some critics, at least in my eyes, do not seem to be aware of the problems that many families face. There are many executive subsystems with similar problems to that of Vivi and sibling subsystems of Sidda. What the movie states clearly is what goes on behind closed doors is often a secret left untold.
Typically, we are looking for a happy ending in a movie because that is how we would want something to happen in life in general. In light of this statement, the ending was realistic but not for all families in this situation. Many families do have a happy ending when there is a major family crisis but on the flip side many do not. I would say that this movie goes along with the saying that tragedy will make or break a family. This is surely a movie that you can pull out your box of tissues for and then say “thanks” for the happy ending!