Amber Tamblyn's Directing Debut 'Paint It Black' Chronicles Aftermath of Suicide

By David Konow 05/25/17

Tamblyn wanted the movie to showcase the visceral, complicated emotions associated with the grieving process.

Alia Shawkat in "Paint It Black"
Alia Shawkat in "Paint It Black" Photo via YouTube

Actress Amber Tamblyn is drawing acclaim for her directorial debut, Paint It Black, a film which examines the aftermath of an artist’s suicide through a rather unconventional narrative. 

The film—set in the 1980s punk scene—begins with the artist, named Michael, having already ended his life and his girlfriend Josie (Alia Shawkat) receiving the news in a phone call. The caller asks Josie if Michael has any family, and the audience is soon introduced to Michael's grieving father Cal (Alfred Molina) and his reclusive mother Meredith (Academy Award nominee Janet McTeer) who blames Josie for her son's death.

Through the initial grief of Michael’s death, Josie and Meredith at first clash, then eventually become entwined together over their shared loss.

The movie is based on the best-selling novel by Janet FitchWhile this is certainly a dark story for Tamblyn’s directorial debut, she told PopSugar that the book was ironically recommended to her by comedian Amy Poehler.

Paint It Black has received rave reviews, not just for Tamblyn’s innovative directing style, but also for how she tackles the subject matter. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers notes that “[Tamblyn] tackles [the subject of suicide] head-on, without fear.” IndieWire said that despite the film’s frenzied structure, Tamblyn “shows a profound understanding of loss.”

Paint It Black doesn’t give the audience answers, much like a real suicide can leave people with questions for the rest of their life. Tamblyn told PopSugar, “It was important for me to make a film that didn't have a lot of answers, because I think that's true to life, and to make it more about what really does happen in the aftermath of somebody being gone, how we sort of fill in the blanks of truth and we make our own truths in order to feel better and to not feel so alone in the experience of that.”

Tamblyn told WWD, “People experience grief in very different ways, and they can be self-destructive, they can lash out at other people, and I wanted to show both of those things in this film….I wanted it to be multifaceted emotionally.” 

Paint It Black is out now in select theaters. Check out the trailer below:

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.