Go Back to China is a new dramedy film written and directed by Emily Ting. The movie follows a spoiled rich girl who, after blowing through half of her trust fund, is told by her factory-owner father that she must return to work for him in China or be cut off. It debuted at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.
This was a relatively standard fish-out-of-water story, but it worked surprisingly well. Even though the story and character arcs are definitely exactly what you would expect from a film of the genre, it is easy to get involved with the movie because it is very palatable. Nothing pushes boundaries in any way, but Ting does a good job with the tropes she uses.
One of the reasons that the film was compelling was that the characters are well-written. Some will find the protagonist Sasha to be annoying and whiny, especially because of her affluent nature. However, from the beginning of the movie, it is clear that she is making an effort to contribute and things just aren’t working out before, and she is very sympathetic as a result.
The film also does a very good job of handling some of the cultural themes associated with the characters. The story has a lot to do with family and the obligations which Sasha may or may not feel she has to them. Over the course of the movie, we come to realize that Sasha is not the only dysfunctional one, and as such, the themes become stronger and more resonant.
The film is never outright hilarious, but there are quite a few moments throughout that will make you crack a smile. Enough is done in the comedy department to invest you in the movie and keep the pacing moving along smoothly. The focus is instead placed on the film’s heart, which is what is likely to appeal to a majority of the movie’s audience.
The actors all do a very good job in their roles. Anna Akana, who plays the film’s lead, is extremely talented. This is likely the first that most people will have seen of her, but certainly won’t be the last, as her range and ability to lead a movie are truly impressive. Richard Ng is also great as Akana’s father, being fully believable as the hard-talking but soft father.
In technical terms, the film was somewhat straightforward, but that can be forgiven. It would have been nice had there been a little more flash with the cinematography and soundtrack to give the movie a bit more visual interest. However, the production design of the film is solid, as there are some props that are heavily involved in the story.
Overall, Go Back to China was a surprisingly decent movie. It is by no means revolutionary, but it has an interesting story and wasn’t getting a whole lot of buzz from early screenings in the festival. That’s a shame because this has quite a bit of mainstream appeal.
Go Back to China debuted at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.