I Will Follow: A Modestly Framed Portrait of Grief


Its elegantly simple structure filled in with startling, understated force, I Will Follow is a modestly framed portrait of grief in its first season. Maye (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) has just lost her favorite aunt, Amanda (Beverly Todd), after nursing her through a year-long illness in California’s Topanga Canyon. Tasked with clearing the house that they shared of Amanda’s belongings, Maye spends the 24 hours that the film comprises dealing with the people—movers, relatives, neighbors, colleagues, old boyfriends, cable girls, and Goodwill jokers—who come and go. Maye’s sorrow colors each of these interactions—including flashbacks bathed in a lemony light—in a different way, freighting them with character and history while remaining firmly in the moment. A successful make-up artist, Maye bonded with her aunt, a renowned session musician who lived a full yet hidden life, in a way that Amanda’s own daughter, Fran (Michole Briana White), never could. Memories are dusted off with the boxes and old conflicts are shifted free with the furniture. Writer-director Ava DuVernay has a light, genuine touch, and it inflects everything from Maye’s Nas-vs.-Jay-Z debate with her nephew (Dijon Talton) to the high-noon face-off between cousins mourning not just the dead but the years they lost to mutual resentment.