Go Back to China
Charming dramedy about woman who learns the value of work.
Go Back to China
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Go Back to China is a dramedy about Sasha Li (Anna Akana), a spoiled, materialistic Chinese American 20-something whose millionaire father cuts her off and forces her to visit him in China and see how the family's toy factory operates. Expect quite a bit of insult language (largely from an angry parent), a racist comment, and occasional use of "f--k," "s--t," and "bitch." Adults drink socially both out and at home. There aren't any sex scenes, but characters make several references to adultery and to Sasha's father's "assistant," who's clearly paid to be a kept woman (she admits she's with him so he'll pay her brother's school fees). Families who watch together can talk about parent-child relationships (particularly with adult children) and the value of work.
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What's the Story?
In writer-director Emily Ting's GO BACK TO CHINA, Sasha Li (Anna Akana) is a 20-something with a trust fund who's trying to land her first professional fashion job in Los Angeles. Despite not having any prospects, she enjoys a lavish lifestyle until she goes out for her birthday and her credit card is inexplicably declined. Sasha quickly discovers that her father, a millionaire toy manufacturer in China, has cut off Sasha and her mother/his ex-wife (Kelly Hu) financially unless Sasha visits him, learns the family business, and earns back her trust fund. Reluctantly, Sasha heads to China, moves in with her dad (Richard Ng), and gets reacquainted with her older half-sister, Carol (Lynn Chen), and younger half-siblings. Although Sasha is initially uninterested in the the factory's day-to-day operations, she realizes that she can use her skills to help design a new toy line with her father's creative team, giving her a professional purpose for the first time.
Is It Any Good?
Ting's semi-autobiographical movie is a charming exploration of adult child-parent relationships and the way that some young adults handle entering the workforce. YouTube star Akana is well cast as Sasha, the likable and obviously privileged young millennial who lives off of her trust fund. While her trip to China is a punishment, Sasha learns to enjoy her father's town and starts advocating on behalf of his toy factory's exploited employees. She learns the value of hard work and what the employees sacrifice to provide for families they barely see. It's refreshing that Sasha doesn't fall in love while in China -- it would've been clichéd for her to suddenly start a relationship with a designer or neighbor, when the movie's story is really about her and her family.
There's not a lot to the plot, but somehow Go Back to China's thin storyline manages to be both entertaining and thought-provoking. Sasha is more than the vapid party girl she seems at first, and Carol (an underused Chen) is more than the dutiful older sister/first daughter. Ng, a famous Chinese actor, captures the controlling but clueless nature of dominant dads, who pull hard on the strings that come along with the money they spend on their adult children. That said, Ting -- whose father really does own a toy manufacturing company in China -- isn't trying to answer a lot of deep questions about international retail supply chains here. Ultimately this is a story about family ties and what happens when kids don't or won't meet parental expectations.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the various meanings of Go Back to China. Which seems the most timely/topical? Why do you think it's important for people to recognize racism and combat it?
The story of a spoiled young adult having their money taken away is common in the media and pop culture. What are some other movies or TV shows that highlight this situation?
Who, if anyone, is a role model in this movie? What character strengths do they display?
- In theaters: March 6, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: March 10, 2020
- Cast: Anna Akana, Kelly Hu, Lynn Chen
- Director: Emily Ting
- Studio: Gravitas Ventures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: March 31, 2023
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