What We Keep to Ourselves

It starts
always
with wanting
to spare
those we care about
the pain
and awkwardness
of seeing us die
a cell at a time
everyday
when sickness strikes
quietly
until one day
it’s too loud to ignore,

So we push
those depending on us
out into the world
cause it’s easier
to steal away
the possibility
that they’d be unable
to cope
to hope
that they’d be okay
again
after we leave
prematurely
or simply because
the sickness strikes
quietly at first,

We have to
control the story
of our character
forgetting conveniently
that we rob those we love
of remembering us
as anything more human
than we wish or want,
preferring monologues
in confessional letters
to dialogues
while we still live.

— yiqi 16 February 2020 5:19 pm

Photograph

Traumas, shame, aspirations, regrets, medical diagnoses, disdain, insecurity, ambition — there are so many things we keep to ourselves because we don’t want to deal with not knowing how others will react.  By gluing our hands to writing instruments, knocking out anything that would spill outside the lines we’ve built for ourselves, we obliterate any chance for other people to surprise us (pleasantly or not).

Such is part of the message I received from Stella Meghie‘s film The Photograph (2020), which also inspired the above poem.  The manner in which Meghie’s films unfolds is much more tender and amusing than the basic premise: journalist Michael (LaKeith Stanfield) meets art curator Mae (Issa Rae) as part of his research for an article he’s writing about Louisiana post-Katrina and the BP oil spill.  Their mutual attraction is undeniable but couldn’t come at a more inopportune time.  The recent death of Mae’s mother reveals some life-altering information and Michael is off to the next chapter of his life an ocean away.  Will they or won’t they decide to stay together?

The jazz-infused music and consistently presented shot-reverse-shots between Michael and Mae reinforce the chemistry between them, and while their nascent romance holds its ground as a plot point, The Photograph is most resonant when the viewer learns about Mae’s parents and how the decisions they made and didn’t make would affect their daughter’s sense of self.  On paper, the concept of intercut timelines and the relationships between potential lovers and parents-and-children is reminiscent of every other production on Lifetime or the Hallmark Channel, but Stella Meghie’s gift for capturing moments and frustrations of characters sets her film apart from something that one would easily find on TV (or a streaming service).

I bought her adaptation of Everything, Everything (2017) yesterday and watched it because I wanted to have more data on her imprint on filmmaking.  Of course, two films may not be enough to come to this assessment, but in just two films, it’s clear that Meghie understands the role of music in inciting an emotional response from the viewer and how to portray the cravings characters have.  Everything, Everything is based on the book by Nicola Yoon; The Photograph Meghie wrote herself.  In the way that she depicts the experiential aspect of the characters’ lives, her style makes me think of Sofia Coppola‘s Lost in Translation and Zoe Cassavetes‘s Broken English (2007).  With more handheld cinematography, it would be akin to Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, 200eight) and The Exploding Girl (Bradley Rust Gray, 2009).  I miss watching these kinds of movies in theatres.

3 thoughts on “What We Keep to Ourselves

  1. Pingback: No Ordinary Love at All | Sitting Pugs: Sports Movies

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