When I was about to watch “A Bread Factory, Part Two”, which luckily happens to be shown at the 20th Jeonju International Film Festival along with “A Bread Factory, Part One”, I had considerable expectation as reflecting on what I observed and experienced from “A Bread Factory, Part One”. As fluidly moving from one precious human moment to another during its 2-hour running time, the first half of director/writer Patrick Wang’s ambitious character drama engaged me a lot more than I expected thanks to its considerable wit, humor, and humanity, and its very last shot surely made me curious about what I might get from the following second half.
After resting a bit during the 20-minute intermission, I was fully prepared for watching “A Bread Factory, Part Two”, and it did not disappoint me at all during its 2-hour running time. While feeling relatively loose and scattershot in terms of narrative, the movie is still as engaging and compelling as its predecessor, and it is even willing to jump above its carefully established mood and background for injecting some joyous spirit into the screen.
The movie begins at the point not long after the climactic part of the previous film. Dorothea (Tyne Daly) and Greta (Elisabeth Henry), a middle-aged lesbian couple who has run a community arts center in a small town of New York State for 40 years, manage to survive what is probably the worst crisis for their community arts center. They continue to prepare for the upcoming stage performance of a classic Greek tragedy by Euripides, but there is one little problem. As shown during the last act of the previous film, a young girl who was supposed to play a key supporting part in the play has gone to California for a better career chance for her, and they need to find a replacement as soon as possible.
Fortunately, they quickly find someone who looks right for that part, and we subsequently watch that person rehearsing along with Greta, who is going to play the heroine of the play. Although the rehearsal does not go that well at first due to that person’s inexperience, things gradually get improved thanks to Greta and Dorothea’s gentle guidance, and there is a terrific moment when Greta helps that person with her admirable professionalism.
The movie also pays considerable attention to Max (Zachary Sayle), a high school kid who has virtually been the only employee of the local newspaper but then is suddenly tasked with taking care of the local newspaper for himself as shown at the last scene of the previous film. He tries as much as he can while also being helped and supported a bit by an old local critic, but he cannot help but feel pressured a lot, and he also comes to conflict with his parents, who are not so pleased when he decides to quit his high school for fully devoting himself to the management of the local newspaper.
When Max has another moment of doubt in private, that old critic guy tells him a certain old anecdote, which may not be true but still works as a nice pep talk for Max nonetheless. During that moment, the camera simply stares at that old critic guy for several minutes, but the result is one of the most captivating moments in the film, and we come to sense more of his good intention as listening more to his phlegmatic but engaging description of that anecdote.
Meanwhile, the mood of the town inexplicably becomes theatrical as numerous outsiders keep coming to the town, and the movie surprises us with a number of unexpected semi-musical scenes. We see a bunch of tourists singing and dancing along with their guide on streets, and then we meet a choir group singing about real estate business, who later give us an amusingly surreal moment when they cheerfully perform in Dorothea’s office.
As baffled by these and other strange happenings which may be reflecting the inevitable change coming into the town, Dorothea tries to keep going on as before, but there subsequently comes a moment where she has no choice but to accept what is already set to happen to her and Greta. Clearly seeing that the upcoming stage performance is going to be their last hurrah, they do their best as usual, and that leads to one of the most emotionally powerful moments in the film. As life and art resonate with each other on the stage, we are captivated by whatever is expressed through the characters performing on the stage, and then the movie generates more poignancy via two minor supporting characters, respectively.
As they were in the previous film, the cast members of the movie are impeccable on the whole. While never overshadowing the other cast members in the movie, Tyne Daly and Elisabeth Henry bring considerable life and personality to their respective characters, and I particularly enjoyed how they dexterously handle their characters’ long conversation scene on that Greek tragedy by Euripides. In case of several substantial supporting performers in the film including Zachary Sayle and Philip Kerr, they hold each own place well around Daly and Henry, and Brian Murray, who previously collaborated with Wang in “In the Family” (2011) and unfortunately passed away not long before the movie was released in US in 2018 October, steals the show again as an aging actor called ‘Sir Walter’.
Overall, “A Bread Factory, Part Two” is a lot more than a satisfying follow-up to “A Bread Factor, Part One”, and these two films confirm to me together that Wang is indeed a talented filmmaker to watch. As spending 4 hours of my life to them, I never felt bored at all, and I am willing to recommend them to you instead of “Avengers: Endgame” (2019). Yeah, that jumbo-size superhero flick may be an event to remember, but, believe me, you will have a more lasting experience with what Wang wants to present through his two masterworks.