We’ve all lost someone important to us at some point during our lifetime. Those deaths affect each one of us differently. No Crying at the Dinner Table is the story of married couple, Ngoc Nguyen and Thao Nguyen-Duong, who, along with their daughter, Michelle Nguyen, discuss the loss that affected them most in life. Each member had been interviewed about their experiences separately. But then the others’ testimonials are played for them as the cameras are rolling. Emotions rise to the surface, and it becomes clear, maybe for the first time, how meaningful their relationships are with one another.
Director, Carol Nguyen, attempts to capture the emotion of the family in question and allow viewers to understand the importance of simple acts: hugging your parents, physically showing your kids that you’re there for them, and taking a few extra minutes to sit down and talk. No Crying at the Dinner Table sees the Nguyens nearly crushed by their past experiences with family members who are no longer around. The filmmaker is successful in her attempt to reach the audience.
“…deaths affect each one of us differently.”
It’s a tall task to take a group of individuals who the audience has no connection to and forge one in only about fifteen minutes. The first step Nguyen takes in ensuring that viewers feel like they are part of the story is the fact that everything (setting, interviews, etc.) is intimate. The kitchen in which the majority of filming takes place, the table at which everyone is smushed together, and the fact that certain scenes are filmed in the bathroom and the bedroom all force viewers to feel connected to the subjects. Whether they like it or not, No Crying at the Dinner Table leaves viewers no choice but to feel something for the Nguyen family.
Honestly, the biggest disappointment of No Crying at the Dinner Table is the fact that I want more. I want to hear more about the Nguyens’ journey through life and to understand more about where they’ve come from and what hearing one another’s interviews means for their futures. The fact that I want more is a compliment to Carol’s storytelling ability, but that doesn’t nullify the fact that I feel slightly cheated. After quickly becoming invested in what is being said, it seems almost essential to provide viewers with a more complete picture. While the audience understands what the interviewees are trying to say, even just a bit more context could go a long way in solidifying what is a tearjerker of a documentary.
While the fact of the matter is that there isn’t much content present in No Crying at the Dinner Table, the message that Carol Nguyen attempts to convey is beautiful and transcending. Not a moment passes where viewers can’t make a connection or associate themselves with something the Nguyen family says. Audiences understand that family, blood or not, is important to our development, our understanding of the world, and how successful we will be in life. These and more make their way to the surface throughout the film. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you’ve been through, one thing is for sure, No Crying at the Dinner Table will leave you an emotional wreck.
"…will leave you an emotional wreck."