An easygoing “country boy” with Asian ancestry, Joey is prone to wearing blue jeans and speaking with a Southern drawl. Despite his ethnicity, he’s all-American and living in Tennessee with his white lover Cody (Trevor St. John) and Cody’s birth son Chip (Sebastian Brodziak).
As the story unfolds, the trio carry on with their daily lives just like any other normal family. Six year-old Chip climbs kitchen counters to reach boxes of cereal stored in the cupboard while Joey reads the newspaper and Cody gets dressed for his teaching job. That two fathers raising a child together seems so ordinary, so unexceptional, is a testament to our changing times.
But then the unthinkable happens, and Joey learns that his small family was never a family at all—that is, in the eyes of the law. After Cody has a horrible car accident, his relatives arrive at the hospital along with Joey and Chip. Suddenly, lines are drawn between those who have the legal right to call themselves family and Joey, who’s not related but knows his partner more intimately than any of Cody’s blood relatives. The utter helplessness Joey experiences at not being recognized as Cody’s legitimate family is painful to watch. At the hospital where Cody lies dying, Joey’s not even allowed into his lover’s room to say good-bye.
Not long after Cody’s death, his sister abducts Chip because according to her brother’s last will she’s been named the guardian of his son. The injustice of her actions fortified by the law being on her side overtakes Joey as he continues throwing himself into work—remodeling other people’s homes while silently suffering in his empty one.
Written and directed by, and starring, Patrick Wang, “Family” is long at nearly three hours, but almost every minute is captivating. Unhurriedly shot with extra long takes, each scene reflects a sense of immediacy much like a documentary. The one flaw is an overly lengthy scene that awkwardly attempts to explain how Cody fell for Joey after his wife dies. Precocious actor Bordziak is delightfully believable as Chip, and Wang as Joey is simply heartbreaking.
Another kind of father is portrayed in “Decoding Deepak,” a documentary made by the famous guru’s son, Gotham Chopra. A popular Indian wellness advocate in Western media, Deepak Chopra has authored 19 best sellers among 64 titles, appeared on numerous TV and radio shows, and is often quoted in print. He’s also a regular columnist for several popular publications, and hosts a daily BlogTalk Radio show, too.
Although he started out as a trained medical doctor, Deepak took a left turn and began embracing healing practices that encompass body, mind and spirit. He soon became a favorite of celebrities like Oprah and Lady Gaga, commanding thousands of followers as a household name.
The irony of being a spiritual guide who ends up rich and famous is not lost on son Gotham as he attempts to unravel the man of mystery for viewers. Accompanying Deepak on the road, Gotham travels with him for a year filming in various countries, including India where they search for their family’s ancient register. They also go to Thailand where Deepak is ordained as a Buddhist monk in a colorful ceremony.
But Gotham’s attempts to reveal, or to “decode,” the real Deepak fall short. Besides seeming star-struck over his own father, Gotham is also compelled to insert himself into the film and it’s distracting. Scenes where Deepak is having a bad moment or caught snoring certainly make him appear more human, but don’t solve the riddle of who he really is.
Still, there are many moments of entertainment like Deepak riding an elephant and in the next breath talking about texting. Even as he spouts spiritual philosophy, Deepak is hopelessly addicted to his Blackberry.
At times, it’s clear that Gotham is searching for a focal point to define his dad. Perhaps, like the elusive answers to life that lead Deepak to continue on his spiritual quest, Gotham can’t find one either.
“In the Family” opens October 5, at the NW Film Forum (with writer/director/actor Patrick Wang appearing at the October 7 screening). “Decoding Deepak” opens October 5, in various cities.