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Tribeca 2019: "The Place of No Words"

Here's Jason Adams reporting from Tribeca once more...

Do you remember the moment you first realized what death is? The goldfish speech from Kill Bill: Volume II comes to mind -- "A fish flapping on the carpet, and a fish not flapping on the carpet." I remember a dead squirrel in the middle of the road, personally. But I think for most of us, the lucky ones who didn't experience an early loss, it's too gradual a process to recollect. The idea of a before and an after, heck even the concept of time itself, was less defined. Of course then we get older. Now I'm watching my friends have to explain these ideas to their kids, putting walls and definitions around boundless ideas.

Mark Webber's The Place of Lost Words attempts to straddle both of those places...

There's the kid working his way through something that seems magic and strange, and the parent's dealing with the more practical end. All by taking us on an imaginary adventure that bridges the backyard with a medieval-tinged fairy-tale kingdom.

It's Beasts of the Southern Wild without the poverty porn, or it wants to be Where the Wild Things Are as directed by Terrence Malick. It has big snot-nosed monsters (created by the Jim Henson Workshop no less) and gorgeous mossy Welsh-land scenery, it has fairies and robots and spinning cameras and cancer. It has room for plenty in its tool- and toy-box as it attempts to explain something truly unexplainable.

But most of all it has a tremendous empathy from Webber, who's entrusted this trip to his own son Bohdi. Webber and his wife, the actress Teresa Palmer, play backseat to their boy, and that magnificent sense of intimacy, of real familial bonds, infuses the film with the sort of heart and closeness that when done right can make a project like this thrum. It can be dangerous for a filmmaker to center their kids like this since they can find themselves blinded to the expectations of their audience (Judd Apatow comes to mind) but Webber manages, making the personal universal. The Place of No Words offers up a lovely and memorable journey, doling out wisdom and fart-jokes with equal aplomb.

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