BFI FLARE REVIEW: ‘A Dog Barking at the Moon’ (2019) is a Carefully Crafted Portrait of a Family Held Together by a Thread

Flip Screen

“Xiang Zi’s directorial and
 screenwriting debut switches between moods and decades with grace and ease.”

 Pregnant Xiaoyu (Nan Ji) lives in the US with her husband Benjamin (Thomas Fiquet), but the couple are visiting Beijing to stay with Xiaoyu’s parents, mother Jiumei (Naren Hua) and father Tao (Wu Renyuan). The splinters in the family unit are immediately apparent – the origin of these cracks are rooted in Xiaoyu’s childhood, when her mother walked in on her father with a male lover. Jiumei is convinced that Tao’s same-sex attraction is a disease that can be “cured” and refuses to agree to a divorce, so the pair remain in a toxic and loveless marriage. 

Director Xiang Zi was in her second trimester of pregnancy herself while shooting the movie, but that’s not where the similarities with Xiaoyu end – the film is based heavily on the melodrama of Xiang’s own family. At one point, Xiaoyu says to her father, “If marriage is a torture, why not put it to an end?”, and this question is perhaps the backbone of the film.

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