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This is a journalistic-style, home movie shot in the director's
childhood home, making it implicitly nostalgic because it has such an
unsentimental commitment to the small gap between past and present.
Homecoming is both an unattained goal and always out of reach, but it's Lea May who just won't let the past or present go- the one who keeps digging up people's dirt. She's not investigating. She's not suspecting. Her personality precipitates it: her innocence and indigence make it impossible for her to gloss over, forget about, swallow the not-so-ideal things that seep up through the seams. Yet, when a breakthrough seems eminent, Lea's inability to face her own fears and misplaced blame brings her further away.
Presumably, this is a past and home Lea would have been delighted to shed a few years earlier: Mom making sure he's gotten enough to eat, Mom controlling her sex life, Mom being cynical and critical of her career dreams... and dad being the middle man or mostly absent. Yet, there is a kind of magical thinking where if she sees herself as if she's in a movie, all will turn out well.
In reality, things stay the same inside her parents' home, while outside, Lea finds herself older and always wresting with how she can let go of the past when family is forever? Indie camera-work follows close against the subjects, and there is slight amateur, digital quality appropriate for a movie that sees life as unpolished and constantly improvised. Other older film mediums like Super 8 are also used to give the movie just the sense of nostalgia it needs and helps the audience to follow jumps in not just the subjective time-line, but subjective points-of-view as well, along with filmmaker Vicky Shen's own breezy rhythms.
ADULTOLESCENCE adds elements of selective memory, voyeurism, escapism,
and magical realism, all as ingredients that constantly alter the
character of a perceived legacy by the youngest daughter, Lea May. The
story begins when Lea returns home after a major career disappointment.
She is catapulted back into her real but tainted memories of growing up
under the scrutiny of her immigrant mother's watchful eye that turns
into a silencing but damaging disownment. As she films her present-day
family and learns what it means to become an artist, Lea must confront
the variations of truth that has led her to her own stagnancy and
blame. By turns, she realizes there is no escape, fantasy or otherwise,
from the unconditional and almost insufferable love she shares with her
"Adultolescence" shows how the world perspectives of American-born children and their immigrant parents collide, but how both are justified in their world views. This film is not just a narrative but a cinematic experience that could serve as a medium to help bridge the gap between immigrant parents and their American-born children (adolescent or adult) by relating to those issues unspoken or too difficult to communicate. However, the most unique appeal of ADULTOLESCENCE is having an honesty and raw emotion we don't often see in Asian-American narratives.
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