I enjoyed ‘Take Out,’ which is steaming right now on Filmstruck. Go watch it now.
Recently, I’ve found myself shying away from any work that tries to ‘speak for the voiceless.’ The Trump era has put a hard edge to that sort of inquiry — the questions asked seem much more basic and politicized. We are back to just proving that the others are humans, too. ‘Take Out’ was clearly an attempt to humanize the Chinese delivery boy, but it gets past the usual schmaltz because it never really asks you to care about the protagonist. We don’t learn much about Ming Ding or his family or his American Dream. The empathy the film evokes comes entirely from a litany of claustrophobically shot, agonizing delivery scenes. We are only asked to agree that delivering food in New York City is probably a terrible job.
I don’t think humanizing narratives need to go much beyond that — anything else, whether a manufactured tragic backstory or some handicap, makes you wonder why the viewer needs to be convinced that all people suffer.