In the small town of Martin, Tennessee, Joey (Patrick Wang) and Cody (Trevor St. John) are raising a little boy together. Nobody in their immediate circle seems concerned about ethnicity or orientation or any of the other obvious things that set the two men apart as a couple. Cody is a widower; his son Chip (Sebastian Banes) is the child he and Joey are parenting.
When tragedy changes the family dynamic, Joey finds himself the odd man out. He has no legal standing where the child is concerned, and so he has to fight to keep his place as Chip's father.
That's the basic story behind In The Family, a long, slow, completely different take on contemporary life. The issue at the heart of the movie is family, and what constitutes family now, and between the slow unfolding and the understated performances, experiencing this film is like being briefly dropped into someone else's life. In a good way.
You need patience to see it. The pace is unlike what we've all been trained to expect at a movie and certain key scenes play out in real time. Much is muffled, off-camera or shot in what you might call through-a-glass-darkly style; this is writer/director/actor Patrick Wang's way of giving you entre into the life of 'the other'. Those who begin as outsiders here finish up familiar as family. The film is so subtle that nobody ever talks about the obvious issues involved -- they just live them. It's quite extraordinary.
In The Family is an independent film and a directorial debut that won Patrick Wang lots of rejection before he decided to just put it out there himself. Lucky for us he did. As the filmmaker says, a story about custody allowed him, "To wonder about America: its immigrants, its history, and the quietly complicated ways race, class, gender and sexual orientation colour daily life." It's a wondering you'll want to see.