Su Friedrich has taken up the camera again in her ongoing quest to film the battleground of family life. Her mother Lore--who played the lead in The Ties That Bind (1984), a film about her experiences growing up in Germany during the Second World War--plays the lead again, this time kicking and protesting against being moved at the age of 94 from her home in Chicago to an “independent living” facility in New York. Friedrich and her two siblings fill out the supporting roles, cajoling, comforting, and freaking out.
“By candidly confronting personal struggles, Friedrich’s films invite reflections on broader, often universal concerns. This is again the case with her latest, I Cannot Tell You How I Feel, which offers a moving, tragic, frequently funny, and profoundly empathetic consideration of mortality and filial responsibility.”
There’s been a recent, very interesting micro-trend among female experimental filmmakers. In the past few years, we’ve seen films by Chantal Akerman (No Home Movie) and Beth B (Call Her Applebroog) that see each filmmaker dealing with her relationship with her aging mother, and how her mother’s past reflects upon the director’s present. Su Friedrich’s I Cannot Tell You How I Feel is a thoughtful, richly felt addition to the genre.
I can tell you how I feel about I Can’t Tell You How I Feel: it is aesthetically unpretentious, ethically adult, and carefully crafted — and precisely as long as it should be. Its candidness about dealing with aging relatives is an engaging antidote to the usual myths, cartoons, and melodramas about aging so common in movies and on television. As participant director and narrator (in both voice-over and visual text), Friedrich is by turns wryly good-humored, self-involved and self-aware, pained, frustrated, and compassionate. For those who remember The Ties That Bind (1984), Friedrich’s breakthrough film about her mother growing up as an anti-Nazi German in the 1930s and 1940s, watching the feisty Lore Friedrich deal with moving to the strange new world of assisted living has particular poignancy.