3 movies depicting the chaos of being a mother

From “Lost Daughter” to the black Finnish fairy tale “The Spawn,” revisiting motherhood is the zeitgeist in movies right now. She pounced on “Umma,” a modern horror film that promises a cultural twist on the enduring cause of mothers who love very much (“umma” means mother in Korean). Single mother Soo Hyun/Amanda (played by Sandra Oh), having run away from her abusive Korean mother after her family moved to America, is now raising her daughter, Kris. (Fivel Stewart), on a remote farm without electricity in an attempt to distance herself both physically and psychologically from the horrors of her traditional past. Mom and daughter are quite close, until the ashes of Amanda’s mother appeared, and not coincidentally at the same time that her beloved Chris lived He begins to get angry at the highly controlled life Amanda has nurtured for them.

Sandra Oh and Phivel Stewart starring in “Umma”.Said Adani

Amanda perfectly captures the plight of the mum of the sandwich generation, who is pressed hard between a rigid nation (Miwa Alana Lee) and a rebellious Chris. As a mother in the same situation—guilty of being a bad daughter, afraid of becoming my mother, frustrated with the choices her teenage son makes—I sympathized completely with her descent into the dark. What’s even more frustrating, then, is that Amanda gets such a rough deal in the end, forced to live a life dictated by either mother or daughter–and to accept this fate with a heart full of love.

My 14-year-old daughter, who was never into a Disney movie even as a child, agreed to watch the enchanting Turning Red with me because she was fascinated by the Canadian-Chinese characters. (She also loves cute things.) Melin “Mi” Lee Brave Rosalie Chiang who juggles academic success, friends, and duties at her family’s ancestral temple turned tourist trade, wakes up one morning to find herself transformed into a giant red panda, citing the transformations of puberty. (Mei’s mother, Ming, mistook the problem, introducing her daughter through a shower curtain.) Thus the panda transformation goes hand in hand with hormonal rage and a quest for greater independence, to which Ming (Sandra Oh, again) responds by cracking On Panda Mi with well-intentioned but highly protective maneuvers. For Mei, the final mother-daughter confrontation leads to a poignant understanding of her mother’s insecurities and how they drive the Ming tiger mother’s behavior.

In Turning Red, a teenage Mei Lee (voice of Rosalie Chiang) is torn between staying the obedient daughter of her mother and the chaos of adolescence. Mi Lee’s mother (Sandra Oh) has very strong feelings about it all. Pixar / Disney / Pixar

Despite the true depth of Turning Red, I walk out of both films with an itch of exasperation. I am no stranger to the generational war. I can’t count how many arguments my mother and I had over everything from my haircut to my marriage to a white man. Perhaps because she was an immigrant (from Taiwan, in the 1960s), she held herself and all of our family to impossibly high standards—grades, appearance, manners, work—as if to prove that we are no less. She vehemently rejected my choice to become a writer, and instead wanted the security and prestige of a noble profession–a doctor, and a lawyer. . . the end. When she got engaged — for a bankrupt academy, no less — she went berserk. Terrible things were said; We didn’t talk for long. Eventually, after many years, she came to appreciate Steve, but the damage was done. After that I felt a certain distance and stayed out of anger. Like Amanda, I raised my children in conscious opposition to my mother.

But when she died last year, she was buried under the weight of the pandemic, trying to balance a change of profession with the well-being of two children, an aging father, and the marriage itself. For the first time ever, I felt my faith crumble in this enduring American concept of self-determination. Sure, my mom was crazy, but her control-obsessed tendencies were always underpinned by a rock-solid dedication and poignant belief in standards. Now, in a world where the social contract has proven to be as subjective as she feared, I find myself missing her arrogant certainty and solid resolve.

Watching “Uma” and “Turning Red”, I had to ask: does ancient culture really have nothing to offer but oppression and conformity? Should it always give way to the new Americanized generation? Isn’t there another story we can tell ourselves – a story in which the war of generations does not matter to winners or losers?

Enter “everything everywhere at once,” which blasts those duets with as much glamour and craziness as a single movie can put together in two hours or more. Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) – tax-trapped, harassed by her aging father (James Hong), disillusioned with her beautiful husband, Waymond (Ki Hui Kwan), and her once-promising but never-doing-good-daughter husband, Joy ( Stephanie Hsu) finds the source of her supernatural strength in the many branches of her life paths. For every failure she reckons in her volatile life, another Evelyn has found success and the powers that Evelyn falterly learns to access.

From the preview, I expected to root Evelyn based on how many roles she takes: chef, kung fu star, opera singer. But her ultimate heroism does not come from fame or wushu, but rather from her hard-earned wisdom and acceptance of her limitations and her daughter’s limitations. After listing all the ways Joy frustrated her, I asked frankly, “Of all the places I could be, why would I want to be here with you?”

But she continues: Perhaps there is “something that explains why you keep looking for me through all this chaos. And why no matter what, I still want to be here with you. I will always, always want to be here with you.”

This is a beautiful and succinct explanation of motherhood as I’ve heard before. Motherhood is often portrayed as either pure bliss or hell, when truth defies strict categorization and changes depending on whether you view it from the mother or from the daughter at the end of the kaleidoscope.

“Everything” gives Evelyn – and moms everywhere – a space that’s neither an angel nor a demon, just humans doing their best. By doing so, it also provides their daughters with the opportunity to let go of this wealthy teenage rage. My mother was very crazy, and heartbreakingly complicated, but since her death, I stopped protesting her contradictions and began to accept them, and even cherish them in hindsight. Loving, ruthless, heroic, proud of herself, she was deeply disillusioned with life, despite her insistence that we all live it as best we can. It was everything, everywhere, at once.

Frances Lynn is a writer in Florence, Massachusetts.

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