The newest film from acclaimed Korean-American filmmaker Justin Chon, Ms. Purple, is a family drama rooted in the cultural background of the characters and writers. The arc may be one that we have seen many times before, but Chon’s unique voice allows this movie to stand out and shine.
The film follows a Korean-American woman who is forced to call upon her estranged brother to care upon their ailing father when his live-in aide quits. The process of family bonding over tragedy is one that we have seen on screen again and again, largely because is such an honest and universal experience that it is likely to connect with most audiences.
Chon’s movie, while not an outright comedy, has a humorous edge to it, with multiple scenes (particularly in the first half of the film) that will have you laughing. These goofier moments, such as one in which we see a man rolling his father in a hospital bed down the street, are a welcome relief from the reality that dominates the rest of the movie.
Additionally, the film can have quite an emotional impact if you look in the right place. The storyline about the father’s illness, though sad, is not what causes this movie to resonate so well. Instead, it is the story of the brother and sister reuniting that allows this film to hit as hard as it does. The relationship between them is established in a way that feels very realistic and true-to-life, which will allow many audience members to identify with the movie.
The character development in the film is quite strong too. In the beginning of the movie, we are introduced to the protagonist Kasie as a hard worker who makes sacrifices in her own life in order to care for her sick father. Because of this, we immediately sympathize with her and buy into her arc. Her brother is far more complicated because he is less immediately sympathetic, but he is still compelling nonetheless.
Tiffany Chu and Jake Choi have excellent chemistry together, but Chu steals the scene quite frequently. In the film, Chu shows that she has tremendous potential, particularly in subtle and nuanced leading roles like this. Hopefully this is not the last we will see of her, because she is able to sell the more emotionally-charged moments in the movie with ease.
On a technical level, the film is pretty strong. The cinematography by Ante Cheng is excellent, doing a very good job of capturing the emotion of the characters in a way that feels earnest and realistic. The music by Roger Suen is also great, complementing the overall mood of the movie well.
Ms. Purple may be a tad too conventional for its own good, but nevertheless, it is an interesting and personal film with all-around good execution. If you enjoy movies that are equal parts heartwarming and sad, this is one that you will want to check out.
Ms. Purple opens in theaters on September 6.