Sunday, March 10, 2019

For Izzy - 2019 SAAFF Movie Review

The Movie: For Izzy

The Director: Alex Chu

The Cast: Elizabeth Sung, Jennifer Soo, Jim Lau, Michelle Ang

The Story: The lives of a recovering addict and her single mother change forever when they move in next door to a widowed father and his adult daughter with autism.

The Review:
This movie was such a wonderful surprise. I had to wait a bit to write my review because it just knocked me right over and I had no words. In the simplest terms, it is entertaining, it is funny, it is heartfelt, it is dramatic, it is emotional, and at it's core it is authentic. It is the type of movie that looks at real life but not in a way that is depressing or told like a bland documentary, it is inspiring and creative and whimsical and serious and it draws you in to all the emotions.

For Izzy is a very unique story that tackles some very unique topics and shows cultural and racial dynamics that are rarely seen in contemporary cinema. Just the fact that the four primary characters are made up of two immigrant, broken, minority families is amazing in and of itself. This movie is a huge leap forward in representation and presenting Asian characters in a way that doesn't reinforce the stereotypes we are so accustomed to. Then you pile on a story so inherently human that it crosses every single type of line you can think of when it comes to being relatable and understandable to anyone who qualifies as a living breathing human being.

The web of relationships between the four characters is very intriguing as you have a father and a daughter alongside a mother and daughter and all of the interconnectivity that develops between them. The exploration of these ideas is the genius of the story and is told in such a beautiful way, it was impossible to not get emotionally invested. I suppose I'm rambling on about general ideas without getting too specific, but it would be hard to go into much detail without having to explain the whole story.

How about I tell you a bit about each character and what makes each of them so special and why the performances are each so impressive.

First there is Jim Lau as Peter, a small business owner who works from home so he can take care of his autistic daughter. His performance is subdued and subtle and Lau fills his character with so much love and a desire to do the right thing even if he doesn't always make the right decisions. Even though I am not a parent, I was able to relate to Peter on many levels And really appreciated the work he put into creating an authentic performance.

Next is Elizabeth Sung as Anna, a single mom who has struggled to create a new life for her and her daughter in America after a troubled and mysterious past in Hong Kong. Sung fills every moment on screen with a depth and sincerity that presents Anna's strengths as fluently as she does her insecurities. On a sad note, Ms. Sung passed away in May of 2018 so this will unfortunately be one of the final performances we will ever get to see from her.

Dede is the focal point of the story and the movie is told primarily from her perspective with a fair amount of her screen time coming from her vlog posts where emotions often coming spilling out in tidal waves of creative energy and untapped emotion. Michelle Ang, especially in those particular moments, is absolutely brilliant and we get to see her kicks things off with one of these videos right from the very beginning of the movie. Dede is also a recovering addict and that side of her story is one of the most honest portrayals of addiction I have seen put on film.

Finally we have Laura who is a twenty something young woman who is autistic and has been under the careful watch of her father her entire life. If this character isn't presented appropriately and authentically then the entire movie becomes a total waste of time. Fortunately, Jennifer Soo is spot on perfect in her portrayal and she brings to life a young woman who is so vibrant and fun to get to know that there is an immediate connection and emotional investment.

The Verdict:
For Izzy is so good and so authentic and I felt all the emotions. Alex Chu, as both writer and director, tackles race, culture, mental health, addiction, love, family, friendship, and so much more and presents it all with a level of passion and creativity that is a pure joy to watch unfold. I'm pretty sure I'll be revisiting this movie when it comes time to picking my favorites for the year.

"reach out. aim high. together, you and i."

For Izzy is an official selection of the 2019 Seattle Asian American Film Festival. coverage of the 2019 Seattle Asian American Film Festival.

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