In Umma, Sandra Oh faces the nightmare of becoming her mother

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In Umma, Sandra Oh faces the nightmare of becoming her mother


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In uh (Korean for the mother), Amanda (Sandra Oh) and her daughter Chrissy (Fivel Stewart) live off the net on a farm where they raise bees instead of vegetables, and it’s easy to imagine that screenwriter and director Iris K. Shim intends to make her first feature film play as a horror version of minari. In Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical film, nominated for an Oscar 2020, the initially embarrassing arrival of her grandmother from South Korea it culminates and underlines the embrace of the children of the cultural identity it symbolizes. T.has a farm uh embodies Americana, and when Chrissy’s Grandma (MeeWha Alana Lee) visits, she too represents the old world, but with decidedly more vindictive motives.

A prologue depicts her abusing young Amanda, then known as Soo Hyun (Hana Kim), with shocks from an exposed electrical cable after she tried to escape, which traumatizes Amanda so much that she vows to cut the electricity for life. She forbids anyone to approach his house with a speeding car or even with a mobile phone, he discovers that lightning strikes are triggered and he suffers from recurring nightmares.

One day Amanda’s estranged uncle (Tom Yi) shows up unannounced at his farm with her mother’s ashes and personal effects in a suitcase. He scolds her for not being married and for abandoning her mother and her Korean name, warning Amanda of her that she belongs to her her mother anger will increase as long as his ashes remain in the suitcase. But when home-schooled Chrissy gets an application for a college that will take her away from her mother’s protective control, Amanda succumbs to her worst fears of turning into her mother, which makes her headmaster.nce of the ashes of the grandmother seems to push.

While unknowingly acquiring our parents’ worst traits is an easily recognizable, even universal concern, Amanda’s resistance to following in her mother’s footsteps involves a total rejection of her legacy. It is unclear whether Shim’s use of the Yellow Peril tropes for horror is intentional, casting a sinister air on benign cultural signifiers that should be familiar to Korean viewers. But the black and white title sequence offers an “orientalism” supercut that includes images of women in traditional Korean clothing and books with hanja printed on the cover. Literally everything Korean in the film seems to indicate danger: the harbinger of the arrival of the Korean-speaking uncle; Chrissy’s discovery of a hanbok in the attic; a scary looking traditional wooden mask called a tal that looks like a ghostly face under a silk wrapper.

At 84 minutes, uh proceed at a brisk pace. The film’s fears are mostly atmospheric, with majestic camera movements slowly creeping through the scenes. Flashes of apparitions, sometimes out of focus, lurking in the background or out of the corner of the eye, lingering only for a fraction of a second. Blood, guts, and the visual effects are minimal, but the film uses sound effects effectively to do the heavy lifting in the scenes. Meanwhile, the influence of Korean horror is palpable – and the film is sure to please fans of the sub-genre – but many of Shim’s choices end up offering a decidedly unrewarding representation of the connection between Asian and Asian-American culture.

Some of the same Yellow Peril tropes that appear in the film are directly responsible for the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, which increased 339% in 2021 alone according to data compiled by California State University San Bernardino’s Center tStudio Of I hate And Extremism. As a result, they have to be lined up on purpose, especially in a Hollywood studio movie, and they don’t seem to be here. Especially at a time when Asian and Asian American characters seek more inclusiveness and diversion, this film seems to slander many of their cultural traits or traditions. Furthermore, a genre film like this may or may not be the right platform for examining the terror or self-loathing of Asian Americans for their ancestors, but uhThe depiction of that conflict brings no substantial idea to that conversation.

Meanwhile Sandra Oh, she takes her second shift in nearly so many weeks as an “overbearing Asian mom who is in danger of becoming her mother,” albeit scarier this time than in Turning red. Ironically, she transforms into a figurative monster here instead of a literal one there, but it’s still thrilling to see her take on the flip side and be excellent playing both. Not unlike the Pixar movie, this one comes to a queue that broadly argues that Asians-Americans can thrive better when they reconcile the duality of their identities, and someday uh And Turning red it could be an excellent double feature. But until we’re a little further away from the current wave of anti-Asian hate crime, Shim’s film belittles the potential nuance that could come from a proper exploration of that idea, reinforcing instead the idea that the language, images and non-white faces are to be feared, worst of all, for the people who put up with them.


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