The indie gods have blessed us with a fun and fresh rom-com with Go Back to China, written and directed by Emily Ting.
What I love about this film is Emily Ting’s willingness to be vulnerable through her characters. The whole film has a solid, clear vision that left me thoroughly entertained. I think the biggest take away from the film is learning about the hardships of the Chinese working class through Sasha’s lens. Many people tend to overlook or be ignorant of the folks overseas working in the factories that produce the things we buy, despite the clients meeting in fancy offices. I can tell this story means a great deal to Ting as well as the cast and crew.
Sasha is an unemployed fashion school graduate living in Los Angeles with a shopping habit and the trust fund to pay for it. Her father, who was absent most of her life, begs her to come work at his factory in China, which she declines. When he freezes her funds and her mother’s alimony, Sasha reluctantly goes to China to work for her father for one year in order to earn her trust fund back. There, she learns the importance of working and applying her talents as well as why her father was never really around. She also comes to understand the differences of the culture she grew up in and the one she denied for so long, but finally opens up to.
It's a deeply thought out story with more than one meaningful message. I really appreciate the script heavily relying on the nature of family in order to connect with the audience. It isn’t too on the nose, but it also doesn’t hold back at all.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Anna Akana truly delivers as Sasha. I’ve always been a fan of her work on Youtube as a visual artist, so seeing her take on a role like this is exciting. Richard Ng plays Teddy, Sasha’s father, in an undeniably moving performance. Her sister Carol played by Lynn Chen is wonderful as well. Their family dynamic in this movie hits too close to home in so many ways. Seeing Sasha’s side and her father’s side of things puts the film in a great perspective while not letting either of them off the hook completely. Sasha, Carol, and Teddy are each flawed in their own right and are luckily given the time to redeem themselves. I also appreciated the choice of having Sasha’s friends be supportive and understanding. I was ready for them to dip on her during the club scene, knowing how easy people can flip flop on you in those situations, but it was relieving seeing that wasn’t the case.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The sound design is so well done that I forgot it was an indie to be honest. It’s nice to watch an indie film that clearly cared about its sound the whole way through. The score is subtle, but weaves in and out naturally, making you feel for the scenes. Not to mention there’s a chill cover of Hall & Oates’ Rich Girl by Pomplamoose in the end credits that made my heart happy.
The second the film began, I was thrown off immediately by the shaky-cam. I don’t mind hand held footage, but this was too shaky, hence too distracting. At one point I noticed some rough stabilization too. Both of these things make the film seem a little off at times. However, the overall look of the film makes up for this. I love the choice of the pastel colors in the production design and the composition of each frame. Everything seems to reflect Sasha’s overall style, giving off a crisp, modern feeling. The color correction boosts this, giving the film’s palette a consolidated overlay.
"The Card Didn't Work."
Genre: Drama. Drama.
I had a fun time with this one and I really hope people go out to see it. After watching this, I wasn’t sure if I wanted more of Anna Akana, Emily Ting’s story-telling, or both. Looks like I’ll be diving into Ting’s other films and rewatching all of Akana’s videos for the next week. Check this film out in select theaters March 6th if you’re in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, or Chicago. It will also be available on DVD and streaming the same day.