HCNY! Hi, Mom (2021) ★★★★

By Vincent Wei

Hi, Mom as a film is nothing to write home about. Watching the movie online was a blessing, as the skip button was liberally used to escape intolerably long scenes. The lighting had a serene, HD sameness which burned my retinas and lost me from one uninteresting scene to the next as the characters stood and mouthed. But what made it the highest grossing film of 2021 was a heartfelt exploration of family, which resonated with its intended audience of young Chinese. To me, it asked: Who is my family outside of being family? 

From my own experience, the Chinese family often feels contractual. The father and mother provide, to the best of their ability, every material support. The offspring are expected to give them ‘face’ in return, by achieving a respectable job title (preferably one with at least the same income as theirs) and producing grandchildren. Dinner-time conversations and phone calls are often limited to how each side can fulfil their side of the bargain. The parents fuss over health and safety. The kids provide updates on what they are up to in academics or extracurriculars. When interacting with family, personalities often get hidden under the veneer of being a mother, father, son, and daughter.

The film implores me to wonder: Who is my mother besides a conjurer of afternoon snacks, nagger, and provider of usually unsolicited life advice? Who is my father besides a bundle of cash flows that puts food on the table, keeps a roof above my head, and funds my education? Who is my younger brother besides a resume of academic and extracurricular achievement, an example of what I should strive to become? When Xiaoling gets transported back into the 80s to be with Huanying as a friend, and eventually recognises her as an individual with her own thoughts and desires separate from being a mother, it implores me to remember. It provokes memories of family outings and candid conversations where we stepped behind the curtain and stopped being societal actors in the same way, Xiaoling recalls carefree experiences free from the contractual expectations of admission, grades, and disappointment. Whilst Xiaoling had the fantastical ability to travel through Huanying’s memories on her deathbed, it serves as a reminder that most of us have the privilege of exploring them now.          

Hi I’m Vincent, a 2nd year undergraduate doing Economics and Economic History. I am currently writing articles for the review section, but might branch out into covering esports, basketball, and opinion. I am a bit of a social hermit so don’t really have an insta, so feel free to reach out via snail mail at W.Y.Wei@lse.ac.uk.           

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