Nhung Nguyen’s 25-minute Love, Laugh, Doom, Tears is a reenacted documentary that chronicles the events leading up to and after a traumatic experience. Nguyen has created the narrative using a form of emotional realism, where her internal world is brought out and made the lens through which her experience is depicted and understood.
The film is about a sexual assault Ngyuen underwent at the hands of a partner. Being a Vietnamese student studying in the US, the subject’s experience and emotions are also understood through the prism of her ethnicity and nationality. Indeed, in illustrating her dating life Ngyuen uses quotes from her (white male) dates to show how they perceive and respond to her nationality.
Images of destruction abound. The burning of her own photo, the shredding of a dress, or the squashing of a banana all form disturbing images which evince at the subject’s struggle to cope with being mistreated on every level while barely possessing the vocabulary to have any clear names to put on any of it. The entirety of the film carries a pervasive quality of self-hate arising from Nguyen being subjected to external harshness and disrespect.
Besides its already difficult premise, Love, Laugh, Doom, Tears is often difficult to watch for its deeply personal emotional rawness. Nguyen translates the internal turbulence of survivors, especially when they are not taught their right to consent. When she finally makes the decision to report the incident in the film, the imagery continues to be deliberately disturbing. As the blood blends into the water, it both signals a continued existence of trauma as well as a sense of release bordering on catharsis.
Watch Love, Laugh, Doom, Tears Documentary Trailer
Love, Laugh, Doom, Tears: A Memoir Of Violence And Trauma