THE GRIEF OF OTHERS
Directed by Patrick Wang
Official Selection, ACID, 2015 Cannes Film Festival
Official Selection, 2015 SXSW Film Festival
Patrick Wang’s THE GRIEF OF OTHERS begins with two mostly random events: the collision between a young girl and a giant dog, and the sudden arrival of an older half-sister she hadn’t seen in years. Both set off a string of questions that lead to the sort of self-assessment that is anything but random. In fact, under Wang’s care and watchful kindness, it is inevitable.
At the center of the family’s self-questioning are the fresh but unspoken wounds inflicted by the death of a child. The arrival of a distant relative and the escapades of a precocious daughter serve, like so many things in THE GRIEF OF OTHERS, as reminders to the rest of the family of the loss they can’t lock away in silence. Wang walks us through each family member’s course of mourning, but he does it through humor and playful allusions to the imagination, and even more provocatively, through curious portals to the past: photo albums, messy rooms, dioramas hand-crafted by the recently-deceased. Never simply trading on nostalgia, the film charms us with the heartbreak, chaos, and adventure associated with objects that summon in its caretakers not just memories of their own pain, but paths to identify and see to the pain in others.
Carefully and lovingly constructed, THE GRIEF OF OTHERS explores the way the past erupts in the mind, often through bursts of voiceover, flurries of breathtaking distraction, and most memorably, cinematic trickery that would harken back to the silent era if it weren’t for the exacting and layered use of sound throughout. With the excited sense of possibility that exemplified his acclaimed debut In the Family (SDAFF ’11), Wang thrills again with a haunting, wondrous story of a family learning to become closer than ever. –Brian Hu