Tuesday, March 19, 2019

SXSW with Abe: Go Back to China

I’m excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the second time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

Go Back to China
Directed by Emily Ting
Narrative Feature Competition

A person can’t control what they’re born into, and they’re responsible only for what they do when given the option. Some are fortunate enough to be provided with a stable home growing up and financial security that allows them to do whatever they want to when (and if) they graduate high school, including higher education and not necessarily getting a job right away. How someone treats the circumstances they enjoy can have a serious impact on how others view them, and it’s to be expected that a person who fails to see and acknowledge what they received won’t be able to hold onto it forever.

Sasha Li (Anna Akana) lives lavishly, burning through the money that her father (Richard Ng) gives her, lazily applying for jobs with her fashion degree to no avail. When her father tells her that he is cutting her off, the tantrum she throws does no good, resulting in her reluctant move to China to work in his toy factory, the only way he will agree to reactive her trust fund. Joining her older sister Carol (Lynn Chen) at the company and meeting other children she didn’t know her father had, Sasha is treated to an eye-opening look at how things work in China that forces her to confront the way she previously looked at the value of money and hard work.

It’s obvious from the start that Sasha has absolutely no self-awareness, blind to the way she lives her life as a victim when she’s given so much in exchange for nothing. Watching this unabashed brat arrive in China and complain constantly about her mistreatment is a mildly tolerable preface to her path to redemption, in which she actually contributes to society by listening to those who are yelled at by her father and utilizing her mind for something productive. While she never encounters any true adversity, still starting at the top in her father’s company, taking a chauffeured car home, and living in her father’s luxurious house, her journey to becoming a better person does follow a neat and entertaining arc.

Akana infuses Sasha with plenty of personality, making her feel more three-dimensional than the unlikeable protagonist could have been, and giving authenticity to her transformation, even if her obstacles are much more surmountable than she perceives. This is a very watchable film despite its predictable nature, and its blend of light comedy and introspective drama proves to be a perfectly fine formula for a fun movie.


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