This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Kait’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
this didn't really do it for me and I'm sad about it!!! this looked really promising but I just didn't enjoy it like I thought I would. the pacing was kinda odd—I kept thinking we'd reached the climax but then there'd still be like 40 minutes left....like, I expected the talent show scene would be pretty pivotal, but it just...wasn't?—and I feel like when I finished watching it, I had so many unanswered questions. like, why was aster just like....casually cheating on her boyfriend with paul like that?? I know she obviously didn't really love him, but I thought it was weird that she wasn't even really trying to like, hide her relationship with paul. they went on very public dates!! and like, aster as a character was just....confusing and one-dimensional. maybe a little bit of a mpdg if you squint? idk, I guess I just didn't really understand why paul and ellie liked her so much 🤷🏻♀️ also, this invoked one of my least favorite high school movie tropes of all time, which is "seniors not deciding which college they're going to until the very last second"!! idk if this was the same experience for everyone else, but at my high school we all pretty much knew where we were going to college by like...late fall? ish? iirc we generally applied to schools in the spring of our junior year or the summer after, and then got our acceptance letters and committed to a school in the fall. idk why it bugs me so much when coming-of-age films get that wrong—it's truly just a personal preference and in all honesty is not that deep—but it really really does LMAO. also, I know that at the beginning, ellie DID say "this is not a love story," but I still couldn't help but feel disappointed by the ending. I felt like the final scene between ellie and aster was a bit lacking—not because it "wasn't gay enough" or anything, but because it felt like the conflict between them didn't really get resolved in a satisfying way.
I did love so many things about this though!! visually speaking, I thought it was genuinely such a beautiful film. I really liked the animation at the beginning, but I especially loved the scene with the back-and-forth spray-painting on the wall. I think alice wu did an incredible job of creating the atmosphere of a small town in which it's very easy for its inhabitants to feel alone and out of place; that felt really really authentic and even tangible to me. and of course I live for a good himbo/lesbian friendship!! I actually think that last part with paul chasing after ellie's train (and ellie laughing at him and then crying over it) was one of my favorite scenes in the movie. OH AND!!! fucking seventeen by sharon van etten!!!! GODDDD that was such a perfect use of that song!!!!
anyways, all of that being said, I really do appreciate this film for what it is. I can definitely acknowledge that as a white person, there's a lens through which I'll never be able to watch this film, so of course my take on it doesn't quite carry the same weight as that of, like, an actual chinese lesbian. but even though I didn't end up loving it, I'm still glad that this movie exists, and that there were asian-american women both in front of and behind the camera. that's not insignificant!! that's a really big deal. I just watched a video in which alice wu breaks down the opening sequence, and she said something that really stuck with me, which was that the film is "about a girl who's never the main character; even in her own mind, she's not the main character. she's just existing." I guess my main takeaway here is that I'm really happy that there are so many people out there who are finally getting the chance to see themselves represented in a main character for once. ❤️