American Girl is a gentle boat ride through kinship

·Lifestyle Editor
·2-min read
Fen, the 13-year-old protagonist of American Girl (Screenshot: American Girl)
Fen, the 13-year-old protagonist of American Girl (Screenshot: American Girl)

Length: 101mins (1hrs 41mins)
Director: Feng-I Fiona Roan
Cast: Karena Lam, Kaiser Chuang, Caitlin Fang, Audrey Lin, Bowie Tsang, Kimi Hsia, Teng Hui Huang, Winnie Chang, Jia Yin Tsai, Ming-Hsiu Tsai

Release date:
Singapore - 9 December 2021
3 out of 5 stars

American Girl is the semi-autobiographical story of 13-year-old Fen from Los Angeles and her struggles to adapt to life in Taipei when she relocates to Taiwan during the SARS outbreak of 2003 with her mum Lily (Karena Lam Ka-yan) and younger sister.

As Fen navigates her way through school and reconnects with her long-separated father, her turbulent bond with her mother worsens. She further drifts away from her mother before her younger sister is misdiagnosed with SARS.

The movie won five awards at the 58th Golden Horse Awards in Taipei, including best new performer for young star Caitlin Fang and best new director for Feng-I Fiona Roan.

A pleasant meander from beginning to end

When it comes to mother-daughter relationships, it's hard to capture the realism of the dynamics in movies. It's not always about screaming matches and slamming doors. More often than not, emotions come out as tensed and barbed words, and unspoken thoughts hang between each interactions, which the protagonists somehow always find easier to talk to someone else about.

A tender moment between Lily and Fen (Screenshot: American Girl)
A tender moment between Lily and Fen (Screenshot: American Girl)

The movie excels in a gentle meander through the dynamics of kinship. It's a slow-paced movie, with plenty of mini scenes to introduce every character and to linger on the emotions of each interactions.

Good times in the movie (Screenshot: American Girl)
Good times in the movie (Screenshot: American Girl)

It felt at times that there were too many of these scenes cluttering the storyline, which make us feel, but not for any other reasons in particular.

A taste of America for Lily's daughters (Screenshot: American Girl)
A taste of America for Lily's daughters (Screenshot: American Girl)

The disappointment that I had at the end of this movie was a recurring mention of an event that did not come to fruition nor had any conclusions. Although it was mentioned repeatedly and felt like it played an important part in Fen working out her emotions, I couldn't see the point of it after the movie ended and was still troubled by it after.

I didn't expect the movie to end when the lights in the movie theatre were switched on, and on hindsight, that's probably the appeal of the entire movie: that I still want to willingly stay on this gentle boat ride, watching the dynamics of kinships run its course.

American Girl《美国女孩》has a limited run in local cinemas.

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