This pensive, artfully crafted drama explores the twisted symbiosis between two American brothers-one domineering and nihilistic, the other guileless and introspective-as they binge on drink, drugs, and women in exotic Thailand. Jake Hunt, who has abandoned his anthropology research for a life of debauchery in the village of Chiang Mai, invites his younger brother Oliver for a visit. Oliver, an aspiring writer suffering through a bout of depression so severe that he tried to take his own life, reveres Jake despite the fact that Jake bullied Oliver throughout their childhood. Intoxicated by both his reunion with Jake and his newfound freedom from responsibility, authority, and structure, Oliver leaps headfirst into Jake's decadent world and falls hopelessly in love with Lek, a comely Amerasian bartender whom Jake paid to be nice to Oliver. Jake, filled with self-loathing, can't make up his mind about whether he wants to sabotage Oliver's relationship or protect his brother from being hurt. A confused and angry Jake pays Lek a visit and unleashes his rage, thereby setting the film on a course towards its bloody, tragic conclusion. By this point Oliver has rejected his brother's depravity and turned inward instead, finding solace in the Buddhist belief that life is illusory and all things cease to exist in the end. Writer-director Seth Grossman's compelling film is topped off by memorable performances from veteran actors Ellen Burstyn and Josef Sommer as the brothers' parents.
The Elephant King marks Seth Grossman’s feature directorial debut. While attending film school at New York University, he made his first short, American Pork, a documentary about artificial insemination in the swine industry, which screened at numerous international film festivals. He then directed Shock Act, winning Best Narrative Short at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival. Born and raised in Durham, North Carolina, Grossman studied English literature and creative writing at Princeton University.