Go Back To China (Review)

Go Back To China

Go Back To China movie
Written and directed by Emily Ting
Go Back To China movie
Next up on the 2019 CAAMFest slamfest of movies is Go Back To China, a movie about someone who goes back to China. Hold on, because we also have unexpected Richard Ng! Go Back To China has homespun indie cred and delivers a well-trod story (spoiled girl learns responsibility) with new and exciting settings and characters. The film is at its best when Sasha Li (Anna Akana) is still in fish out of water mode, but it unfortunately fails to stick the landing and just sort of ends, which is a darn shame considering the potential it had.

Spoiled trust fund kid Sasha Li can’t get a job and is blowing through her money on parties and shopping, until she is blackmailed by her father Teddy (Richard Ng Yiu-Hon) to return to China to help out at his toy factory, or she’ll be cut off from the rest of the money. Once there, Sasha has to adjust to both a new culture (she was raised in California) and dealing with her cranky father and her many half-siblings. She has an older half-sister, Carol (Lynn Chen – Saving Face), who already had to go back to China and work with dad, as well as two younger siblings from her dad’s next upgrade wife (since divorced, and dad now has a live-in girlfriend with whom he has an “arrangement” with that is the same age as Sasha)

The different aged family members even becomes a plot point, as they both have their own layers of resentment for the families that they were replaced by but also see the same new families get replaced in turn and the kids get filled with the same resentment. Sasha and Carol spar due to both seeing the other as the favored daughter, Carol longing for Sasha’s freedoms while Sasha seeing Carol as just a goody-goody who does whatever dad wants. Teddy shows he still hasn’t learned to be a real father yet when he upsets the next generation of his kids, leading his daughters to have to lead in picking up the mess. As someone with disappointing family members, this is sadly truer than it ever has to be.
Go Back To China movie

Go Back to China is semi-autobiographical, in that writer/director Emily Ting actually did go back to China to work at her father’s toy factory, a father who was married multiple times with multiple children (though far more than in the film!), the house is her father’s real house and one of the siblings in the movie is played by her younger brother. The film is even shot at her dad’s factory and the workers are played by real workers (who came in on their day off to be in a movie)

The film being based on a bunch of true roots help give it a unique flavor, you rarely see family dynamics this complicated in most cinema. The familiarity might have held some things back. Despite everything, the movie just seems to quickly resolve without having a real finale. While more realistic, it does make the film lack a final oomph that could have pushed it over the top. While I enjoyed the feature, it just seemed like it lacked one last thing.

Richard Ng helped work on the father character to make him more rounded instead of being just a guy who threw toys when he was angry. How much other actors contributed I do not know, but Carol’s remarks about her husband leaving her because she can’t have kids may have come from Lynn Chen, who herself has been open about her fertility issues. I like when actors do this, getting into the mindset of the characters and helping shape their reality. Some of the big films you hear about filming without having real scripts work like this because the actors are so talented and experienced enough to pull it off. And somethings they aren’t, which leads to hilarious messes.

Go Back To China twists an old story into something different and good, and despite its flaws still ends up pretty good.

Rated 7/10

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Go Back To China movie

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