Sensitive and understated, J.P. Chan’s A Picture of You balances humor and sentiment with an instinctive hand, skillfully unearthing honest, unexpected laughs amid intense grief.
Old resentments fuel fires between estranged siblings Kyle (Andrew Pang) and Jen (Jo Mei) as they prepare their childhood house for sale after their mother’s passing. They needle one another over trivialities — how much tape to use to pack boxes, what to eat for dinner — both so stubborn that they mourn in isolation despite the enormity of their shared sorrow.
Packing away the household knickknacks brings back hazy memories of their mother. Here is where the film’s title becomes a sly wink, suggesting sweet remembrances, but revealing the picture in question as a racy, X-rated bedroom shot of their mother posed with a mystery man’s genitalia. At first, the kids are horrified at the discovery, but Jen, reeling from guilt over her failure to visit during her mother’s protracted illness, takes it upon herself to uncover this secret lover and some kind of closure.
Their estate sale preparations erode into a full-on, county-wide hunt for a man only identifiable by a grainy, low-resolution picture of his privates. The makeshift espionage acts that follow verge on slapstick, but remain emotionally vital because of Jen and Kyle’s desperate need for distraction.
It is easier, after all, to fixate on the absurd than it is to stop and feel the ever-growing emptiness of the house they once called home.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 20, 2014