Canada's entry for Best Foreign Film at the recent Oscars, 'C.R.A.Z.Y.' didn't make the shortlist for the award, which went to South Africa's 'Tsotsi'. But had fortunes been reversed 'C.R.A.Z.Y.' would've been just as worthy a winner. When films about families go wrong they can be unbearably mawkish; when directors get the tone and themes right they resonate far longer and deeper than any other genre. Already a massive hit in Canada, 'C.R.A.Z.Y.'s legion of fans will grow and grow.

Set in Montreal from the 1960s to 1980s, it follows the journey from childhood (Émile Vallée) to adulthood (Grondin) of Zac, the fourth son in a family of five boys - brothers Christian, Raymond, Antoine and late arrival Yvan being the others who lend their initials to the film's title.

Zac is told from an early age he is special: born on 25 December, he is brought back to life by doctors after his delivery and in a hectic few hours also survives getting dropped by one of his family.

His deeply religious mother Laurianne (Proulx) is convinced that Zac has the ability to heal people while his father Gervais (Côté), a wise-cracking man's man, is far more concerned about the fact that a very young Zac wants a pram for his birthday.

A sensitive child, Zac hides that part of his personality to become his father's favourite, but as the year's pass the doubts grow about his sexuality.

In a family of very disparate personalities - including hardman Raymond, egghead Christian and sports nut Antoine - Zac is the artistic and aloof one who regularly butts heads with eldest Raymond and his father. But he's also the one who will heal the family when tragedy strikes.

Vallée has said that as a viewer he likes to leave a cinema "with the satisfying feeling of wanting to live" and 'C.R.A.Z.Y.' measures up to that quote. Together with co-writer François Boulay - himself one of five brothers - he has created an insightful film that will speak across generations and which manages to be both funny and tragic with plenty of lessons on offer.

With Patsy Cline and her most famous song constants throughout, Vallée and Boulay have crafted a story that never feels forced, but moves with a grace that few can muster. There are some brilliant visuals but these flourishes are behind superb performances from the entire cast, which includes Vallée's own son as the six-year-old Zac.

Even though the ending feels a little rushed, and some of the brothers are more sketches than characters, this is a family it's impossible not to like.

You'd love to be asked around for dinner.

Harry Guerin