Prepare for a shock: the Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) kicks off Friday, and the content of this week's films actually appear to be promising. This is largely because of the great number of films which fall into the category of "Extremely Sad Movies in English or Italian" (ESMIEOI). For example, take the films 13 Conversations and Me Without You. Both in English. Both sad.

MWY is the story of little Holly and Marina, two young Brits growing up in London, alternately hating and loving each other as they go through puberty. You'll be on the floor sobbing by the time you finish watching Holly's heart being shattered into a zillion tiny pieces by Marina (aka that mean, insecure bitch.)

Then there's The Son's Room and Italian for Beginners. V-E-R-Y depressing. In fact, The Son's Room is so incredibly sad, that at least one film reviewer who has a reputation for never crying in movies was seen wiping away several gallons of salty tears. But you'd cry too if you had to watch a perfectly lovely, healthy family being torn apart by the death of a son, wouldn't you?

Italian for Beginners is, you guessed it, also sad. Wait a minute what? Okay, so Italian isn't actually in Italian, it just has the name "Italian" in the title. It's actually from Denmark. But it features some desperate people trying to make meaningful lives out of very little. Enrolled in a beginning Italian class, these pitiful characters come together without really wanting to admit they need anyone else. Through watching the interactions during class, you'll get to watch each of their pretensions slowly unravel, until their lonely existences are exposed.

The reason each of these excellent examples of ESMIEOI are effective in their overwhelming sadness is because they involve a lot of poignant acting, emotion conveyed through sophisticated, tumultuous, and often codependent situations, and characters you can relate to. In fact, with the exception of one unbearably boring movie, Gerry--which involves people walking and walking and walking through sand--I'd say 99.997 percent of this week's ESMEIOI are splendid. Quite.