Chinese-American mom and daughter reconnect.
Based on 2 reviews
No reviews yet.Add your rating
Common Sense is a nonprofit organization. Your purchase helps us remain independent and ad-free.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the movie focuses on intergenerational tensions in a Chinese-American family, stemming from two primary difficulties: an immigrant father rejects his 48-year-old daughter when she becomes pregnant and won't name the baby's father; the granddaughter, a NYC surgeon, hides her lesbian relationship with a dancer, out of fear that her mother and grandparents won't "understand." The film features emotional discussions of relationships, artful images of lesbian sex, and a charming black bisexual neighbor who gives Wil advice and watches soap operas with Ma.
Nice portrayal of real and imperfect people
Report this review
Saving Face is a good film about a complicated intergenerational family
Report this review
What's the Story?
Ma (Joan Chen), lives with her mother (Guang Lan Koh) and father Wai Gung (Jin Wang) in Flushing, Queens. She's also mother to 28-year-old Wilhelmina (Michelle Krusiec). A dedicated surgeon, Wil is also a dutiful daughter: she runs daily, takes extra shifts at the hospital without complaint. Wil begins a relationship with Vivian (Lynn Chen), a ballet dancer who'd rather be doing modern dance. While Wil is afraid to tell Ma she's a lesbian, Viv worries about disappointing her father, who thinks modern dance isn't "serious." When Ma becomes pregnant and won't name her child's father, much less marry him, her father kicks her out, so she moves in with Wil. Conflicts occur over space and expectations, especially when Ma tries to please her father by enduring an arranged dating process: the ordeal brings mother and daughter together in mutual appreciation and exasperation. Seeing her mother dressed to go out, Wil is stunned: "You're beautiful," she stammers, having never considered her mother an object of anyone's desire.
Is It Any Good?
Alice Wu's sharp first feature brings together many relationship concerns. Though SAVING FACE includes a few typical romantic comedic elements -- the supportive next-door neighbor, gossipy community ladies, irascible grandfather, mistaken identities -- it also provides a nuanced look at immigrant transitions and at last, a layered, detailed role for wonderful Joan Chen.
The movie is especially smart about various concepts of "face," as reputation and legacy, but also as the means by which everyone of every culture gets through the days, performing in order to please others, to get ahead, to survive. Saving face is at once an acknowledgment of ritual and collective identity, a self-reinvention, a reclaiming of roots and resistance simultaneously. Against this backdrop, Wil and Vivian's romance becomes secondary to Wil and Ma's relationship.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the love and tensions between mothers and daughters (over three generations), as well as potential conflicts over traditions from another country: how might a next generation's "progress" be enhanced rather than limited by maintaining such traditions? How does Wil's fear of revealing her relationship with Vivian keep her from feeling comfortable or honest with her mother? How do their confessions help them to understand one another?
- In theaters: May 27, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: October 18, 2005
- Cast: Joan Chen, Lynn Chen, Michelle Krusiec
- Director: Alice Wu
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some sexuality and language
- Last updated: January 2, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate