I try to watch Canadian films when I can and this one was a film that debuted at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
Synopsis: An aging woman questions her life after suspecting her husband is having an affair. (IMDB)
Starring: Cheng Pei Pei, Tzi Ma, and Sandrah Oh
Writer: Mina Shum
Director: Mina Shum
Rating: PG (Canada/United States)
Running Time: 94mins
Representation is important in film so it is refreshing to see a Canadian film about a family of Chinese immigrants. The story here was about an elderly woman named Maria (Cheng) and her husband Bing (Ma). When Maria discovered evidence that Bing may be cheating on her, she begins to take a deeper look at her life and her choices. From that point on, instead of confronting her husband, Maria steps out from under the shadow of her prideful husband and decided to take charge of her own life.
Maria was never not compelling to watch while charmingly putting herself out there despite a limited grasp of English. She eventually joined a group of neighbors who partook in an illegal parking scheme. Her and her new friends were fun to watch together as the sisterhood they formed filled a void she never hadn’t experienced since immigrating from China. Maria was using the money she earned to spy on her husband.
The many scenes between her and Bing, depicting their tumultuous relationship was the most interesting part of the film but it could have gone much further. There was a lot that lied beneath the surface with both of them. Keeping her feelings internalized for most of her life had taken a toll on Maria and Bing wasn’t infallible either which was taking a toll on him as well. This was easy to see as tension grew between each of them.
The film also suffered from finding the right balance between Maria’s journey of self-discovery, her marriage with Bing, and a few other subplots that didn’t quite land. They included a neighbor with an ailing wife (Don McKellar), the relationship between Maria and Bing’s daughter Ava (Oh) and her husband Jonathan (Zak Santiago) and their relationship problems, and the upcoming wedding of their other son who Bing disowned and that we never got to see.
The best part of the film was Cheng’s excellent performance as Maria. She brought plenty of charm and grace to the role. Her nuanced performance conveyed so much emotion through her facial expressions and body language. She was fun to watch and elevated her character above a mere senior caricature. She and her parking friends were fun to watch together thanks to their great chemistry. Ma gave an equally s strong performance as the once stoic Bing who falls apart under the weight of his crumbling marriage.
Overall, this was a charming coming of age story of sorts whose unfocused story is elevated by a strong central story and performances by Cheng Pei Pei and Tzi Ma.