BOOTED OUT of his house for being gay, Ethan Mao, 18, survives on the street as a hustler selling sex to older men. He meets Remigio, 19, a drug dealer and hustler, who befriends Ethan and takes him in. After being tipped off by his younger brother that his family is going on a day trip on Thanksgiving Day, Ethan asks Remigio for a ride to his family house to get some of his belongings. Ethan and Remigio break into Ethan's family house, but are caught in the act and have no choice other than to hold his parents hostage. In the following increasingly desperate hours, Ethan, his family and Remigio are forced to confront their unresolved conflicts between each other. As the tension between Ethan and his family escalates, their inner demons and family secrets unravel in this suspenseful drama. Written by
A Refreshingly Different Story That Makes Many Meaningful Statements
Quentin Lee is to be congratulated for taking on several controversial issues and blending them into a novel story that works on many levels. While many writers and directors of Indie gay films focus on the downtrodden, bleak, tragic aspect of young gay lads coming to grips with their lives, few have presented stories that emphasize an element of redemption based on courage to change those things that can be changed.
Ethan Mao (Jun Hee Lee) is an 18-year-old Chinese American boy who has been working (gratis) for his father Abe (Raymond Ma) all his life in their Chinese restaurant. One evening at closing time a young man enters the negligently unlocked door and robs Ethan's cash register at gunpoint. Abe enters form the back of the restaurant and kills the robber, much to Ethan's chagrin. This results in an angry confrontation (one of many in an Asian family where the children are supposed to always obey the parents). Ethan is still mourning the loss of his mother and loathes his stepmother Sarah (Julia Nickson-Soul), a would-be actress who married Abe for money, bringing along her own son Josh (Kevin Kleinberg), a bright young man of obvious mixed genetic pool. Ethan also has a younger brother Noel (David Tran) with whom he has a warm and strong bond. Sarah discovers a gay magazine in Ethan's room, shares this with Abe, and Abe throws Ethan out of his home for being gay and shaming his family.
Ethan, bitter, homeless and without money, begins a life a street hustler, accepting his passive sexual role with older johns as a means of income. Serendipitously he meets Remigio (Jerry Hernandez), a fellow hustler and minor drug dealer who understands the life of an orphan's loneliness, and befriends Ethan and offers him shelter and affection. Ethan decides to return to his home on Thanksgiving (knowing that his family always goes out of town on that day) to take his belongings and get some cash. Remigio accompanies him and what begins as a simple entry into Ethan's empty home results in disaster as his family returns for a forgotten gift. Ethan rages against them and decides to hold them hostage until morning when Abe can send Sarah to the bank to retrieve Ethan's mother's necklace - the only memento he has of her. The crux of the story is how this tangled 'family' comes to different levels of understanding under duress and how Ethan (through this dream vs reality incident) arrives at forgiveness and finds love with the ever-supportive Remigio.
The acting is mixed but the cast engages us and allows each character to morph into something better than we expect. Both Jun Hee Lee and Jerry Hernandez bring credibility to their roles and the result is a palpable relationship which touches the viewers' hearts. While there are rough spots in camera work, in script, and in production, this is a strong little Indie film with a lot to say, dealing with positive images and debunking old prejudicial thoughts about sectors of society miscegenating into the fabric that makes our population more tolerant. Grady Harp
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