A charmingly delicate short film which brings out so much with very good material and delivery
It was by chance that I watched a short film a few days ago from the Australian director Corrie Chen but since then I have seen a few more with my third being this film listed on IMDb as being her second short after Happy Country. Like that film, Wonder Boy looks at the issues around cultural integration for Asian (Chinese in particular) families living in Australia. With the last film being quite positive, it is good to see that this second film takes a cleverly natural subject and line as well. The plot isn't about melodramatic racism but just the smaller challenges to fit in or rather to fit at all, since it looks at a first generation Australian. Clancy is Chinese, his mother is Chinese and speaks to him in Mandarin, a language is he working in after-school classes to learn. At school he is not out of place with the Australia children, but at the same time he is unquestionably not one of them, meanwhile he is also removed from his mother's culture and traditions.
I really like Chen's approach in her other film and here because it takes a big subject and boils it down for us without simplifying it. The issue here is one of the those from Chinese families born and raised in Australia they will always be seen as "Chinese" by white Australians, while at the same time they are disconnected from the experiences and cultural knowledge of those who came from China to Australia. It is not an issue unique to this race and this place because you can see it in many other examples, but here it is the focus and it is very well done. It is slight and yet it draws a lot of understanding for the viewer from just a few interactions and scenarios. Hoang's Clancy doesn't say too much in the film but the structure around him and his silent awkwardness tells us a lot. His simple actions to try and make connections also say a lot and without melodrama or forced narrative, Chen shows us this really well in terms of content but it also helps that the film looks really good too and also uses music in a nice but unobtrusive way.
A very nice piece that presents a lot in a very clear way to make for an engaging and roundly well delivered film.
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