Greetings again from the darkness. Kasie (an excellent Tiffany Chu) lives with her father (James Kang), who has an unidentified terminal illness, and has been in an extended coma, showing no real chance for recovery. Kasie is the primary caregiver, and out of familial duty, refuses to put him in hospice for professional care. She also works as a Hostess/Escort at a popular Karaoke bar and has a rich boyfriend, although there seems to be no love between the two – it’s more of a business relationship.
Out of necessity, Kasie re-connects with her older brother Carey (Teddy Lee) who bolted from home many years ago after disputes with the father. He seems to have done little with his life, and frequently gets booted from an internet café for lack of cash. Carrying guilt for deserting his sister and father years ago, especially since the mother/wife left home when the kids were very young, he agrees to help Kasie with caregiving, and even takes dad for “road trips”. It’s quite a comical sight to see son pushing dad’s bed through town set to The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). Much of the siblings’ adult issues can be traced to mom abandoning them for a better life with a rich man. Some emotional scars never heal, so this bit of levity is welcomed.
Director and writer Justin Chon (co-written with Chris Dinh) was behind the critically acclaimed GOOK in 2017 (a Korean DO THE RIGHT THING). Here he uses Kasie’s flashbacks to childhood with her dad and brother as a framing device, demonstrating how the father dealt with his wife leaving, and laying out the responsibilities and burdens that family can bring. There are recurring shots of lone palm trees whose significance to Kasie is only explained late in the film … but does provide more insight into the bond she has with her father. The contrast between memories of her father telling her she’s a beautiful girl and the obnoxious, entitled behavior of her rich Karaoke customers is heart-breaking. A nice young valet (the car parking type) played by Octavio Pizano offers Kasie a taste of normalcy and it slowly brings her back towards center.
Ms. Chu carries the film. Her performance relays the vast array of emotions – the duty she fulfills that wears her down. She is quite something to behold. The film has a terrific score of violin music from Roger Suen, and lets us know that finding one’s self while caring for another can be a breakthrough that may sometimes be loud, and may sometimes be quiet. I was fortunate to stumble onto this movie at the 2019 Dallas International Film Festival when another screening got cancelled. Such a pleasant surprise