Being gay in Tennessee

5:09 a.m. on November 16, 2014, modified at 11:55 a.m. on June 20, 2017

In Martin, Tennessee, everything is rolling for little Chip, 6, a kid already endowed with good humor and, above all, two dads who love him and who love each other. The situation seems well established and accepted until the day when Cody dies suddenly. Collapsed, her partner, Joey, suddenly finds himself confronted with his sister-in-law, who challenges him to keep the child …

By flashback, the whole history of the couple formed by Joey and Cody will be reconstituted, dissected, and Joey’s place within it will end up being contested. We then understand that the latter, of Asian origin, entered Cody’s family just after the death of Chip’s mother, was only admitted there. And that he remains alone if not undesirable in the absence of his lover: his integration was hanging by a thread.

Without ever stating the words gay, homosexual or marriage, nor even reminding us that gay marriage remains outlawed in Tennessee, one of the most conservative states in America, it is a drama as edifying as it is romantic and singular that puts on stage Patrick Wang, man of the theater who signs his first feature film.

Son of Taiwanese immigrants

Although not autobiographical, his point of view has the merit of being based on nuanced and nonetheless sharp personal observations, largely inherited from his experience as the sons of Taiwanese emigrants who fought to find their place in the United States. . “There is a lot to learn from people who know how to navigate the storms of existence,” he says, adding that he has no children, does not live in a relationship and has never lived in Tennessee. “I thought of my dad for the scenes where Joey gets lost in legal twists and turns. He’s propelled into uncharted territory, dependent on the kindness of strangers, but with a little luck and a lot of hard work, he eventually finds its way. “

Crossed from start to finish by this figure of a weakened but always dignified and determined father, the film finds its breath and its originality in its way of putting into perspective the characters who revolve around it, all torn between their discomfort and their compassion. Not necessarily overly specified but observed with patience and never caricatured, these protagonists gain in depth even though the story does not always go with the back of the spoon, first by completely evacuating Chip’s mother. , then over-emphasizing Joey’s courage in the face of adversity at times. “I chose to make these characters experience the events that put them the most to the test, which would reveal the most of themselves, the worst as well as the best,” said Patrick Wang for his part.

The final scene, depicting a tense reconciliation between Joey and his in-laws, is uplifting and successful in this regard. It clearly interweaves family law and the personal history of a son of immigrants, bluntly suggesting that one discrimination may hide another. However, she does not seek to overwhelm Joey’s in-laws, only to reveal her. “When I tell a story, continues Patrick Wang, I try to think as little as possible about what I already know, and to question myself, on the contrary, about others.”

In the Family *** by and with Patrick Wang, Sebastian Banes, Trevor St. John. 2h50.

Source: JDD paper