30 Days of Queer Cinema - Day 22 | In the Family

Director Patrick Wang stars as Joey, an Asian American gay man from Tennessee in a loving long term partnership with white high school teacher Cody (Trevor St. John). Together they are raising Cody's biological son, Chip. When Cody dies suddenly of an unexpected illness, Joey and Chip find themselves alone for the first time, trying to pick up the pieces of a shattered life.

Things get complicated, however, when Joey discovers that Cody left sole custody of Chip to his sister, Sally, in a six year old will. Devastated, Joey is left to wonder what happened, and as he grows more and more estranged from a family that had once accepted him, he is left with nothing but his memories for company. When he decides to fight for his son, it becomes clear that even the law is against him. In a world that doesn't even recognize his relationship as legitimate, his entire family as he knows it is about to be torn apart.

At nearly three hours long, In the Family may seem a bit daunting, and even self-indulgent for a first time writer/director. But the film never once feels like it's as long as it actually is. Wang never wastes a shot, and each moment is imbued with a kind of quiet dignity. It is a film made up of moments, and these are the moments make up a life. So often the film focuses on what may seem like trivialities, but these small moments create a big picture that is simply stunning. In the days following Cody's death, Wang spends quite a bit of time just observing Joey and Chip silently going through the motions of their life as if in a trance, lost without the missing piece of their family. It is as heartbreaking as it is riveting, and it never feels gratuitous. You'll find no over the top histrionics here, no shouting or crying or unnecessary melodrama, just a quiet sense of justice. It's so subtle that the final shot hits like a bomb. It is an emotionally shattering denouement to one of the year's most truly special debuts, heralding the arrival of a thrilling new cinematic voice.


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