By Vanessa Zimmer
Writer-director-producer David Rust Gray’s blood examines the tenacity of grief and its dreamlike hold on a young widow who trudges through life with a sweet smile hiding her pain.
A melancholy mix of the joyful and the sad, Gray’s quiet film, screening at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, delivers a message about the constancy of death: “When someone dies, you carry them with you the rest of your life,” said Gray in a Q&A following the film. Daily life goes on as usual, he said, and you find yourself at times forgetting them. But they never go away.
In the film, Chloe’s photography work takes her to Japan, where her husband’s friend Toshi kindly shepherds her around, often accompanied by his young, energetic daughter, Futaba, who coaxes them into games of hide-and-seek and helps her dad cook them dinner.
Gray chose a nonactor, Takashi Ueno, a Japanese musician, for the part of Toshi. His wild hair and infectious laugh endear him to the audience, as does the playful presence of his daughter.
Swiss actor Carla Juri brings an unsettled calm to the role, the tears just below the surface through most of the film. “It was an invisible camera, so that helped,” said Juri, referring to the use of long lenses that allowed the two actors to forget they were being filmed.
As for the title, there is no deep meaning, Gray said. An actress who worked with him early on in the project dreamed that it would be called “blood.” And a friend told Gray that you never mess around with the messages of dreams.