In the Family

A powerful study of a gay man seeking custody of the child he raised with his recently deceased partner, "In the Family" marks a remarkable debut by legit writer-director-actor Patrick Wang.

With: Patrick Wang, Trevor St. John, Sebastian Brodziak, Brian Murray, Kelly McAndrew, Peter Hermann, Park Overall, Susan Kellermann, Elaine Bromka, Zoe Winters, Eisa Davis, Chip Taylor, Eugene Brel.

A powerful study of a gay man seeking custody of the child he raised with his recently deceased partner, “In the Family” marks a remarkable debut by legit writer-director-actor Patrick Wang. A beautifully written and performed plea for understanding on hot-button moral and legal issues, the pic is perfectly pitched to engage the emotions and provoke discussion among fair-minded viewers of all persuasions. Lengthy running time reps a commercial challenge, but Wang justifies every minute. Self-funded, self-distribbed drama should attract the positive word of mouth and critical kudos to broaden its release from a single Gotham screen on Nov. 4.

Surely the first film about an Asian-American man involved in a same-sex relationship in Tennessee, the tale recalls the social realism of John Cassavetes with long takes in which silence and the faces of those in emotional pain are as potent as words.

Pic’s stationary-camera aesthetic and naturalistic tone are carefully established in the opening images showing Joey Williams (Wang) engaging in delightful morning play with Chip (Sebastian Brodziak), a lively 6-year-old. Slowly, it is revealed that Joey’s long-term partner is Chip’s biological father, schoolteacher Cody Hines (Trevor St. John), who is shortly thereafter killed in an offscreen car accident.

A home renovator and restorer of old books, Joey assumes he can continue to care for Chip; Cody’s family has embraced Joey ever since the two men’s relationship (shown in flashback) began, seven months after Chip’s mother died in childbirth. But Cody’s will, which predates his time with Joey, has named the boy’s aunt Eileen (Kelly McAndrew) and uncle Dave (Peter Hermann) as his guardians. Suddenly, a restraining order is taken out against Joey, and Chip is removed to Eileen and Dave’s care.

The film’s winning ingredient is the manner in which Joey approaches the daunting task of obtaining custody. Without any crusading speeches, Wang portrays Joey as a decent, ordinary guy who doesn’t understand legal and financial complexities, and simply wants to get Eileen and Dave to talk about the situation. How he works toward this with the help of wealthy, retired lawyer Paul Hawks (Brian Murray) will move many viewers with its dignity and restraint.

Using only 300 shots, several of which exceed 10 minutes, Wang’s meticulously modulated storytelling never flags, and he elicits excellent performances from an ensemble consisting mainly of thesps with notable backgrounds in theater. Child actor Brodziak is marvelous as the clever, high-spirited boy at the center of the storm.

“In the Family” was lensed in Yonkers, N.Y., and its very few exteriors effectively substitute for the well-chosen Tennessee setting, where the attitudes of many characters may surprise auds bearing preconceived notions about Southern bigotry. Lenser Frank Barrera’s subtle lighting and the simple yet effective work by production designer John El Manahi and costume designer Michael Bevins couch extraordinary emotional terrain in the most normal of surroundings. Other tech work is pro.

In the Family

Production: An In the Family release and production. (International sales: In the Family, New York.) Produced by Andrew van den Houten, Robert Tonino, Patrick Wang. Directed, written by Patrick Wang.

Crew: Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Frank Barrera; editor, Elwaldo Baptiste; music, Chip Taylor, Andy Wagner; production designer, John El Manahi; art director, Jaime Rosegren; costume designer, Michael Bevins; sound (Dolby Digital), Johnny Marshall; line producer, Matt Miller; associate producer, Barrera; assistant director, Miller; casting, Cindi Rush. Reviewed at Hawaii Film Festival (Express Yourself), Oct. 17, 2011. (Also in San Diego Asian Film Festival.) Running time: 169 MIN.

Cast: With: Patrick Wang, Trevor St. John, Sebastian Brodziak, Brian Murray, Kelly McAndrew, Peter Hermann, Park Overall, Susan Kellermann, Elaine Bromka, Zoe Winters, Eisa Davis, Chip Taylor, Eugene Brel.

More Scene

  • DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer Confirms Bryan Singer's Reason for Leaving, Says 'No One' Was Attached to Play Mercury

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King provided insight into some of the events surrounding the Golden Globe-winning film Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards Nominees Breakfast, including director Bryan Singer’s departure from the film partway through production. “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce

    Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce GLAAD Media Award Nominations

    Mj Rodriguez and Nico Santos are set to announce the nominees for the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards. The “Pose” star and “Crazy Rich Asians” funny man will make the announcement during a live-stream hosted by AT&T and from the AT&T Hello Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 25. “The images and stories recognized [...]

  • Emile Hirsch, Matt SmileyEmile Hirsch hosts

    Emile Hirsch Hosts Smiley Face Art Opening at Mondrian Hotel

    Despite the rain on Wednesday night in West Hollywood, there were plenty of smiles inside the Mondrian hotel thanks to artist Matt Smiley‘s Refresh exhibition. Not only is Smiley his real last name, but several of his paintings and other pieces in the exhibit feature smiley faces. “I’ve seen more smiley symbolism lately, and I’ve [...]

  • Randall Park, left, and Constance Wu

    Constance Wu Wants Her 'Fresh Off the Boat' Co-Star Randall Park to Host the Oscars

    While the Academy may have decided to go hostless for this year’s Oscars, that doesn’t mean the rest of Hollywood has stopped thinking about who would be a good choice for the emceeing gig. Former host Whoopi Goldberg recently suggested Ken Jeong. Jeong said, when he was a guest on “The View,” Goldberg told him [...]

  • 'Schitt's Creek' Stars Reveal Dream Guest

    'Schitt's Creek' Cast Reveals Dream Guest Stars: Oprah, Beyonce and ...

    “Schitt’s Creek” has big dreams. Dan Levy, who stars as David on the series, says his wish list of guest stars includes Oprah, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Gwyneth Paltrow. “All for different reasons, none of whom we’ll get,” he cracked at the Critics’ Choice Awards. For those who haven’t caught on to the “Schitt’s Creek” [...]

  • Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bundchen

    Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen to Be Honored at UCLA Science Gala

    Science can be very glamorous. It certainly will be during Oscar week on Feb. 21 when the UCLA Institute of the Environment & Sustainability (IoES) honors Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen for environmental activism at its annual Hollywood for Science Gala. “When I moved to LA, the air was unbreathable. Rivers were catching fire in [...]

  • Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells Black

    Don Cheadle, Andrew Rannells Talk Snorting 'Coke' on 'Black Monday'

    “Black Monday” show creators David Caspe and Jordan Cahen divulged an intriguing detail to come later in the first season of the new Showtime comedy at its world premiere, held at the Theatre at Ace Hotel on Monday night in Los Angeles. “The fourth or fifth episode opens with a sexual harassment seminar, which very well [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content