Turning Red movie review: Disney-Pixar film is a sensitive portrayal on the pangs of growing up-Entertainment News , Firstpost

Turning Red addresses the issues of identity, belonging, generational trauma, friendship in the most relatable way

The teenage years are such a tumultuous part of many people’s lives that a movie on this issue is naturally bound to connect with audiences. Turning Red, Disney Pixar’s latest offering, directed by Domee Shi, delves deep into this issue and delivers an accurate and sensitive portrayal of the moment of transformation.

Meilin Lee, the protagonist (), is a 13- year-old Chinese-Canadian. A typical schoolgirl, she is caught up with grades and extracurriculars, her friends, her obsession with a teenage boy band, and the pressure of being her (super strict) mother’s “whole world”. When she’s not in school, she’s helping out in her family temple. She constantly feels the need to excel and be perfect at all she does, balancing her mother’s expectations and her cultural heritage with just having fun with her friends and living a regular teenage life. The principal’s summary of her character is perfect: “a very enterprising, mildly annoying young lady.” She’s someone all of us know (and maybe something all of us are).

Things come to a head when she wakes up one morning and discovers she turns into a red panda every time she’s anxious and stressed. It’s a family curse, she’s told, and she has to take part in a ritual to stop the transformation, once and for all. At a symbolic level, it is also the shedding of “the beast within”, leaving her to be the perfect girl her family believes she is. The problem is, Meilin quite likes the beast.

Within the story, there are several loopholes and resolutions that seem contrived. However, Meilin’s journey and the universality of it keeps you hooked. Meilin has to come to terms with several aspects of her identity: her culture, heritage, family, interests, dreams, aspirations, friends, crushes, hormones. It’s a lot for a 13-year-old, and no wonder she’s stressed a lot. However, the entire journey also reconciles her to different parts of herself, and she is able to communicate and express her needs better.

It’s interesting that in the beginning, all Meilin wants to do is fit in. She wants to be a part of her friend’s group that watches concerts or hangs out after school. She’s clearly struggling with her Chinese and familial heritage and expectations. She wants to be ordinary, regular, common. Yet, the movie celebrates her uniqueness and individuality, which she retains and, in fact, fights desperately to hold on to. In the process, she establishes stronger bonds with her friends and family.

The first Disney all-female creative team is behind this movie. It shows in its exploration of girlhood, motherhood, and the relationship between a young girl and her overprotective mother. And it’s not a critique as much as a celebration of the process.

It’s not incidental that Mei Lee is 13, at the brink of puberty. The theme of change is well explored in Turning Red, especially the changes in our minds and bodies as we grow up. The metaphor of the transformation into a panda, and the subsequent conflicting emotions around it, are very indicative of the emotional process of growing up. Meilin doesn’t just have to shed years of conditioning to be perfect and obedient all the time. She can rebel against these ideas and try to figure out who she wants to be, what her own likes and interests are. She makes interesting choices – they make you feel that she will constantly be able to change and evolve as she grows older.

Turning Red movie review DisneyPixar film is a sensitive portrayal on the pangs of growing up

Director Dommee Shi has addressed some of these issues in her interview with The National News: I think that is definitely a struggle a lot of Asian kids, a lot of immigrant kids, have to go through, and my hope with making this movie is for all global audiences to relive the cringiness of being 13, but also specifically for those kids that are struggling with being in between these two worlds, and having to honour their family and their home life versus trying to be themselves outside that. I want to tell them that it’s going to be messy, but it’ll be OK.”

Addressing issues of identity, belonging, generational trauma, friendship, and mother-daughter relations, this is undoubtedly a movie that will connect with people. Don’t be surprised if it makes you stop and say, “Hey, that’s me!” several times while watching it!

Turning Red will release on Disney+ Hotstar on 11 March.

Rating: * * * 1/2

Shreemayee Das is a writer and a stand-up comedian. She writes mostly on cinema and culture. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @weepli.

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