Carol Nguyen and Family
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
There's a stunning level of intimacy in Carol Nguyen's No Crying at the Dinner Table, a 16-minute short doc screening as a finalist during this week's Indy Shorts International Film Festival unfolding in Indianapolis and online through the 26th.
Winner of the doc short Grand Jury Prize at this year's SXSW Film Festival, No Crying at the Dinner Table is a riveting film, though it almost feels weird to call it a "film." This is life, real and painful and honest and vulnerable life captured beautifully by Nguyen as she interviews her own Vietnamese-Canadian family in search of secrets and truths, honesty and something that seems to be beyond words.
No Crying at the Dinner Table is remarkable in its sobriety, completely devoid of histrionics and there's not a false note to be found in the film. The film explores familial grief and love, loss and generational differences. Words are spoken, but there's often as much spoken in the silences and the body language and the facial expressions shared between mother, father, and sister and the ways they've opened themselves up to discuss these experiences.
You can feel entire beings shifting throughout No Crying at the Dinner Table, grief is being shared along with long repressed emotions and grief buried under the cultural and generational masks we choose to wear and that are chosen for us. There's regret. There's forgiveness.
There's love. There's so much love here that you practically become immersed in the experience.
Walid Jabri's lensing is intimate and unflinching, almost jarring in the way it invites us to this dinner table where the family has gathered. Arie van de Ven's sparse original score is like a soulful whisper that comforts and nurtures throughout. Nguyen herself has designed the setting, placing us amidst this family dwelling and rather than feeling uncomfortable we feel privileged by the experience of this love and healing and warmth and changes unfolding without ever dismissing the hurts of the past and the traumas that linger within us even as our lives move forward.
No Crying at the Dinner Table is a sublime cinematic experience.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic