The Grief of Others (NR)
Yet these peculiarities are jarring rather than embarrassing. Wang has clearly studied Jon Jost, who also crafts bleak, family-in-free-fall tales with nothing but a camera, a small town, bare-bones interiors and a jaded heart to his name. Whether it all sinks or swims depends largely on the acting, and Wang's ensemble here is excellent. Particularly, they include the unnervingly Christina Ricci-esque Oona Laurence, as a truant, precocious pre-teen, and Sonya Harum, as her eccentric, unexpectedly pregnant half-sister. Harum reunites with members of this dead-eyed clan, who are still mourning the death of an infant and that tragedy's ensuing betrayals and estrangement. As the title suggests, she latches on to their peril -- and that of an androgynous townie (the charmingly off-kilter Mike Faist) -- to distract from her own, in vain.
Wang favors static, wide, one-take shots, to underscore the relentlessness of his characters' suffering. But, like Jost, he also has a knack for primitive in-camera effects. The final shot is a triumph of both economy and feeling: a silent park burial superimposed -- burning projector-style -- over an empty kitchen.