Being a recent postgrad myself and having moved back home since my plans for summer abroad fell through, I feel somewhat stuck.
Here I am, with an expensive degree, at home, hopelessly looking for a job that will see me through at least the summer. I can’t exactly move out because I don’t have any real funds to sustain me for long, but being at home has made me revert back to a weird “upgraded” (updated?) version of the self I was before I ran off to college on the other side of the continent. I’ve come from cooking my own dinners and cleaning my own bathroom to piling up my laundry for my mom to do while rotting my brain with episodes of Dexter, with intermittent breaks to go to the gym or meet up with friends. Then there are the showdowns I face with my mom as we struggle to one up each other as we argue about curfew, my social habits, or the quality of the clothes I’ve scavenged from thrift stores and sales racks.
It’s tough being in “adultolescence” with a Tiger Mom.
Which is the very conflict directors Vicky Shen and Zoe Bui and producer Eleonore Dailly tackle in their 90-minute film, Adultolescence.
Adultolescence was previewed as a part of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) Summer Screening Series, which screens films written, directed and produced by SCA Alumnae.
The film follows the journey of Lea May, portrayed by Vicky Shen herself, the youngest daughter of three in a first generation Asian American family, who is struggling with adultolescence, “a period of stagnation between adolescence and adulthood.” After getting fired from her job, Lea returns home only to realize that the “original roles still apply” even when an adult moves back. In her mother’s presence and home, memories from her childhood stir in her mind, recalling the sense of helplessness and misunderstanding she felt as a child and teenager growing up under her mother’s relentless scrutiny. They mislead Lea and cause her to perceive her reality, her stagnation, as a faulty product of her parents lack of support and faith in her desire to become a screenwriter. By filming her own family, however, Lea learns that she must face her reality and see how she herself is responsible for her alienating adultolescence and that there is no escaping her mother’s love, no matter how intolerable or overbearing she may be.
Actress Jeanne Sakata skillfully took on the role of Mrs. May, Lea’s mother a.k.a. Tiger Mom. Her portrayal of the character humanized rather than stereotyped the “Asian mom” and made her very real and Lea’s difficulties with her relatable. Mrs. May is endearingly, and brutally, unequivocal; that juxtaposed with her incidentally funny analogies incited giggles and cackles of laughter in the audience as she explains important life lessons to Lea, topics ranging from how to be a lady to what it means to be talented. Sakata, without a doubt, brings to life the droll and offbeat language of Mrs. May.
As Mr. May, actor Michael Yama achieved the delicate balance of playing the peacemaking husband and the loving but firm father. In their scenes together, one wishes and hopes that maybe Lea will come around and understand where he is coming from and that there isn’t a need to push so hard or fight.
Adultolescence effectively captures the narrative voice of the first-generation Asian American young adult who struggles to make her own way into the world as she grapples with her upbringing that refuses to let her get away so easy.
Find out more about the film here.
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