Review: Intimate and tender, Confetti Chronicles a mother’s journey to give her daughter a bright future
Based on the real life story of writer / director Ann Hu (Shadow Magic), Confetti focuses on a Chinese mother named Lan (Zhu Zhu), who finds out that her 9-year-old daughter Meimei (Harmonie He) is dyslexic and decides that she will do anything to make sure she doesn’t end up without an education and ” a waste “as Lan can be seen. Lan and her tailor husband Chen (Li Yanan) live in a small town in China where schools are good as long as you have no learning disability. Much like her mother, Meimei was unable to learn to read or write in Chinese due to her dyslexia, but that did not stop her from developing incredibly sharp spatial recognition and memory skills that enable her, for example. example, to learn easily. English school American English teacher Thomas (George Christophe), who sees the girl’s potential and tries to help the family find her a school somewhere nearby that is more suited to teach Meimei.
Being from New York, Thomas naturally knows of schools there that could be of help, which led Lan to make the difficult decision to take her daughter to New York, where she will work as a housekeeper (as she does. in China) and take other jobs to cover the costs of a special school. Her husband is understandably weary and thinks that she is leaving him for good, but he also knows Lan’s secret about illiteracy and is convinced that this is Meimei’s only chance. Thomas sets them up with Helen (Amy Irving), a writer friend of his who is in a wheelchair and needs help around the house. She is gracious but also feels misled by Thomas upon learning that Lan speaks hardly any English, leaving Meimei as the only version of a translator in the house. Helen begins to get them placed elsewhere through an agency, but at that point she begins to feel attached to them and offers to help them get into a very expensive school that can give the girl the attention she needs.
Confetti does a terrific job of both capturing the visual experience of dyslexia and explaining how it manifests itself, how it can be treated and sometimes overcome to some extent. But it also beautifully shows us the overwhelming experience of being in a foreign country where you don’t know anyone and can’t speak the language. Lan is sometimes so inundated with emotions about her own upbringing, her inability to help her daughter, and everything in America cost that this trip is far more devastating than one might imagine.
But the film is also about an extremely intelligent Meimei, seen for the first time in her life. She is mocked and criticized by teachers and other students in China, because they think she is flawed and stupid, when quite the opposite is true. In America, the question is more about status. Being a poor immigrant is not the best place to start when it comes to trying to find a place in a prestigious special school. Helen Slater plays Dr Wurmer, the principal of the school in question, and even if she wants to help, she has to respect the rules and deadlines set by her institution. Very often Lan’s struggles are not with people but with tradition and unyielding rules, which makes things all the more maddening and hopeless.
Harmonie He’s performance as Meimei is astonishing, especially for such a young actor. She must exude shyness, intelligence, confusion and dismay, sometimes within one scene, and it’s easy to see why people would want to help a girl so eager to learn and overcome . There are times when Confetti feels a little too much like educating the public about the plight of dyslexics, but considering that something like 1 in 10 people have some form of it, I don’t think there are many people in the world who do not know what it is to some extent. But given that this particular story is owned by the filmmaker, it’s easy to feel her passion for the material and how deeply those life experiences have permeated her art. An opportunity to see such work on real privacy should not be missed, even with a few minor gaps in the writing.
The film opens in theaters at AMC River East.
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