No Crying at the Dinner Table

Short film from young Vietnamese-Canadian filmmaker Carol Nguyen which premiered at TIFF in 2019. It has gone on to make its way around the festival circuit and win several awards along the way. The almost 21 minute film is sparse in set up and visuals, but rewarding nonetheless.

It is a documentary, which seems like it was a work of a cathartic nature on the part of the director, that focuses on the idea of things left unsaid. Though it is simple in regards to set up and staging, it is complex when it comes to the emotions involved.

Nguyen has used her immediate family as her subjects. Interviewing them while also filming them while playing back their interviews to them. It is a study of how different generations deal with trauma, grief and the secrets we all attempt to keep.

The result is a film which is rather raw and filled with emotions. The pain is evident on Nguyen’s three family members’ faces. You see and feel how Nguyen is dealing with stuff from her past while at the same time encouraging change from her family by making them face up to things. Set them along the path of true communication by vocalizing their feelings, saying aloud that they love each other, apologizing for errors made, and working towards forgiveness.

A highly personal film which shows that the director, based in Montreal and Toronto, really has an eye for visuals (even the simplest) and knows how to set up a story in order to get the maximum result. Demonstrates rather clearly that something many would see as a “normal” story can still be engaging.

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