2021, NR, 88 min. Directed by Ann Hu. Starring Zhu Zhu, Helen Slater, Harmonie He, Amy Irving, Yi Liu, George C. Tronsrue.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Aug. 20, 2021
After two historical dramas (Boxer Rebellion-era Shadow Magic and 2005's Beauty Remains, set under Chang Kai-shek's premiership), Chinese American filmmaker Ann Hu goes more contemporary, more personal, and heads to America for this sweet if slight story of a mother, Chen Lan (Zhu), who gives up her entire life in China to find new opportunities for her daughter, Meimei (He), after she is diagnosed with dyslexia.
There are none of the fireworks, the parents yelling at the experts about how they won't give up on their kid even if the system has, that we have been trained to expect from these kinds of stories. Instead, Lan pushes forward with patience and quiet devotion, staying with strangers and working menial jobs. Confetti is based on the simple idea that telling the truth can unlock hearts, and hearts are the way to circumvent bureaucracies. Well, at least in America. Hu's China barely even acknowledges dyslexia, which is why the trip is essential in the first place. Yet even with her diagnosis, Lan gets caught up in all the struggles that every American recognizes – that money is really the key, and that's what complicates everything for an illiterate school janitor who has brought her daughter to a foreign country with no money, no documentation, and no support system.
Yet Confetti doesn't step too far off the beaten path of such concerned-parent dramas, complete with the inclusion of a grumpy-but-compassionate intercessor (Slater), a sisterly figure who helps with all the essential translation in expositional scenes (Liu), and Lan losing hope just as everyone else starts to really believe in her little wonder. However, sometimes the heartstrings need tugging to an old, established rhythm, played here with simple charm by Zhu, and given high notes by Hu's dedication to highlighting what being profoundly dyslexic can mean.