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By Rob Rector | January 24, 2022

SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! What is the acceptable time to love after loss? That is the core of writer-director Bradley Rust Gray’s meditative blood. In it, Chloe (Carla Juri) arrives in Japan after the unexpected death of her husband. She meets up with Toshi ( Takashi Ueno), a friend of the couple from previous travels to the country.

Chloe is a photographer who apparently took the assignment as therapy, but also to revisit memories she and her husband shared of the country. Toshi, a single father, plays host to Chole as she spends her days immersing herself in the culture. It is easy to see how the trip would help her heal. The country is filled with warm memories and acquaintances from the couple’s previous visits, allowing Chole human contact, but her perfunctory grasp of the language prevents her from having to share too much detail of her internal emotional struggle.

Though the language is a barrier, Chloe finds connections through other means: food, dance, and music. While doing so, Toshi floats in her shadow, providing comfort and assistance. Eventually, his feelings get the better of him, and Toshi awkwardly, endearingly, reveals his feelings for Chloe. Still emotionally bruised, Chloe politely declines, but it does cause her to question just what is an appropriate time to grieve.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

“…Toshi awkwardly, endearingly, reveals his feelings for Chloe.”

Gray’s drama feels like a spiritual sequel using the same documentary aesthetic he brought to The Exploding Girl. What blood lacks in narrative thrust, it makes up for with sincerity. Juri, best known to mainstream audiences as Dr. Ana Stelline in Blade Runner: 2046, exudes justifiable fragility. She quietly observers and reflects while focused on building herself back, yet always on the cusp of breaking into a smile or tears. The casting of Juri is pivotal, as she is capable of conveying deliberation behind her eyes as she consumes her surroundings.

Ueno is suitably charming, his warm smile often hidden behind a disheveled mop of hair. The newcomer is required to merely float in Chloe’s orbit, but he is effortlessly appealing as he slowly gravitates ever-closer to her. Issei Ogata, a mainstay of Japanese art-house films, is equally engaging as Juri’s sage acquaintance Yatsuro who is dealing with his own awkward stage of life.

Bradley Rust Gray continues to mine that murky space between the platonic and romantic, first in the teen years with Girl and here following the loss of a long-term partner. blood rests in the quiet corners of the unspoken and is filled with moments that almost feel as though we are eavesdropping on tender, subtle moments within a woman’s latter stage of grieving. It’s as emotionally honest as it is engaging.

blood screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

blood (2022)

Directed and Written: Bradley Rust Gray

Starring: Carla Juri, Takashi Ueno, Issei Ogata, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

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"…rests in the quiet corners of the unspoken..."

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