Instructions on Parting

Instructions on Parting

Amy Jenkins
US
2018
95 minutes

Prepare to be devastated. Amy Jenkins’ emotional elegy to her own family will break your heart. Instructions on Parting is an intimate portrait of the filmmaker’s own life and of those dearest to her as they deal with marriage, childbirth, and three cancer diagnoses in her immediate family. The autobiographical intimacy and reflexiveness of the film might remind viewers of Ross McElwee’s work (his film Bright Leaves screened at DOXA in 2012), but without the ironic distance. Instead, Jenkins embraces the powerful emotions at the heart of this film and returns a beautiful reflection on the nature of life, death, and grief.

Narrated using answering machine messages and hand-written title cards, the film has a home-made quality that endears as it draws the viewer in. But even as it incorporates this home video aesthetic, the film looks stunning. Between the emotionally raw footage of a family dealing with loss, Jenkins uses time-lapse video of the natural and human world around her to give pause, allowing the viewer to reflect on their own lives and meditate on universal questions about time, memory, and human frailty.

While undoubtedly an emotionally challenging film, Instructions on Parting rewards at its end with a message that is as much about transformation and acceptance as it is about loss. -JC