In 2018, Preston Zeller got a phone call from his mother to tell him that his brother had died from a drug overdose. Preston had thought he was prepared because this wasn’t the first time that his brother had overdosed and so he had thought several times that his brother would die. However, the truth of his passing overcame Preston like a wave and he didn’t feel prepared for the emotions that were coming.
Preston is an artist though and he decided to channel his grief into his work and to explore his emotions through the medium that he knows best. Art therapy has also been proven to have extraordinary results in helping with the grieving process, so while Preston starts to create, he learns more about himself and his relationship with his brother.
The Art of Grieving is a documentary written and directed by Preston Zeller about the work which he produced after his brother’s death and about art therapy itself. Not only looking at Preston’s own art and the way in which he expresses himself, The Art of Grieving is also about how other artists have done the same throughout history.
What could have been an inadvertently self-aggrandised documentary which could have been all about Preston and his grief, instead turns into an exploration of art and its healing powers that come from personal expression.
In fact, Preston’s art practically plays as a background to a wider issue around grief and art therapy. Looking through history to the modern day, the documentary shows many artists have grieved in their own ways and helped others with theirs.
This is also what makes Zeller’s documentary stand out, because it feels like Preston understands that his grief is personal and unique to him and that he doesn’t want it to be the focus either. Everybody grieves differently and they all have their own experiences and that’s reflected in the documentary and Preston’s own work.
However, despite keeping his audience at arm’s length, somehow The Art of Grieving comes across as something that could help others as much as it helped Preston himself.
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