Saturday, February 2, 2019

Sundance with Abe: Ms. Purple

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the sixth time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can.

Ms. Purple
Directed by Justin Chon
U.S. Dramatic Competition

A person never knows exactly where their life will be headed when they eventually grow up. The stabilities they hold dear may not be consistent, and factors far beyond their control can have a lasting impact on where their future will go. A family separation at an early age means that a united front by parents is lost, and, in some cases, only one remains behind to raise the children. Such situations are not always idyllic, and can lead to a great dependency and expectation that, when a single parent becomes sick years later, it is their adult children who will be wholly responsible for them.

Kasie (Tiffany Chu) lives in Koreatown in Los Angeles, working as a hostess at a karaoke bar to support her father Young-il (James King), who is sick and requires constant care. When his caregiver announces her immediate departure, Kasie reaches out to her brother Carey (Teddy Lee), who left years earlier after an explosive interaction with their father, and who reluctantly returns home to help care for him, despite repeated recommendations by every healthcare professional they ask that he be placed in hospice. Struggling to stay afloat, Kasie tries to balance the pervasive world in which she works with the real life that she has not yet really been living.

This film is a mesmerizing exploration of what it means to feel attached to family. A poignant and disturbing flashback finds Young-il marching his well-dressed children to their mother’s new home to celebrate the new year, only to have her close the door on them and tell her new husband that they must be selling something. When Carey runs into his mother as an adult in a parking lot, she pretends not to know him. Faced with that option or with an abusive father who pushed his children too hard, Carey does his part and humorously wheels his father’s bed all around the city, giving him a chance to experience sunlight and other delights while mostly unconscious. As he does this, Kasie is able to start to wake up and realize where she’s reached in her own determination just to keep going.

Chu and King are both so comfortably natural in their feature film debuts, relating so easily and casually to each other that it often feels as if the camera isn’t even there. The sibling dynamic is conveyed magnificently, and their scenes together are the heart of the film. Beautiful camerawork and a gorgeous score complemented this contemplative, captivating film about charging ahead even in less than ideal circumstances.


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