Monday, March 14, 2022

Turning Red


Image credit: Carousell

Coming-of-age stories have always been a pretty solid and relatively foolproof flavour of cinema: relatable, funny, heart-warming/breaking, and guaranteeing a healthy, mixed audience. Over the years coming-of-age cinema has seen all sorts of interpretations and depictions of the adolescent gear change, from Puberty Blues to Stand By Me. For tonight’s movie, partner and I curled up on the couch and enjoyed Pixar’s latest foray into the coming-of-age genre: Turning Red.

The film centres on Meilin, a seemingly normal 13-year-old just starting to develop her own tastes and sense of identity. At school she’s an over-achiever with a passion for boy bands and at home, she strives to be the perfect daughter. When a harmless doodle turns into a dramatic confrontation with her mum, it triggers a genetic ‘gift’ where Meilin turns into a red panda whenever she experiences strong emotions.

Turning Red is a clever little film in a number of ways. Firstly, the title works on a multitude of levels, as the trigger for the genetic trait is shame and embarrassment as well as a borderline outward reference to what marks a girl’s entrance into womanhood. The red panda is both a funny and dramatic metaphor for puberty, illustrating both the cute side and the significantly less cute side. 

On a deeper level, the film is an exploration into familial relationships and how much they influence identity. Similar to Encanto the central drama of the film stems from the relationship between Meilin and her overprotective mother, as well as nod to the familial structures and cultural attitudes of multi-generational immigrant families. 

Image credit: Rotten Tomatoes

The animation is signature Pixar with a bright colour palette and gorgeous lighting, however I can’t say that the art style is my favourite to come out of the studio. Quite a few of the characters were giving me Aardman vibes, which work for the claymation likes of Wallace and Gromit, but no so much for the studio that brought us Wall-E and Toy Story

This singular negative aside, Turning Red is a very cute and heart-warming coming-of-age tale that has a little something for everyone. There are plenty of funny moments and just as many tearjerker moments; overall a perfectly good film.

Director: Domee Shi, 2022

Cast: Rosalie Chiang, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Wai Ching Ho, Lori Tan Chinn, Tristan Allerick Chen, Orion Lee, Sandra Oh, & James Hong

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