We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
"In the Family" centers on one of the notable performances I've seen — if, indeed, it is a performance. Perhaps Patrick Wang is exactly like that. Then he must be a very good man. He wrote, directed and stars in the film, but it's not a one-man show. It is about the meaning of "family." This is his first feature, and may signal the opening of an important career.
Wang plays Joey Williams, a Chinese-American man who has been living happily for about five years with Cody Hines (Trevor St. John) and Cody's 6-year-old son, Chip (Sebastian Banes). Chip's mother died in childbirth. Some months after that, to his own surprise, Cody fell in love with Joey, and they're raising Chip. This household is given enough screen time to establish it as a happy, healthy place.
Then Cody is killed in an accident. Chip stays with Joey, whose treatment of him is a study in wisdom and love. The boy is so irrepressibly joyous that we sense what a happy life he has led. But Cody's sister Eileen (Kelly McAndrew) reveals that her brother left a will years ago, granting her all of his property and custody of his child. This will, written after the death of Cody's wife and before he met Joey, has never been updated.
On Thanksgiving Day, Joey drops the boy off at the sister's house and never sees him again. A lawyer in his Tennessee town tells him flatly he doesn't have a child custody case, and no judge in the state will rule in his favor. Neither this lawyer nor anyone else ever uses the words "homosexual" or "gay." It isn't in any sense a "gay rights" film, nor is it an "Asian-American" film. It is about a father and son who have been separated against their wishes.