B Gentle drama
Written and Directed by Ann Hu
Here’s a movie to warm the cockles of your heart. Lan, a school janitor in China discovers that her daughter Meimei is dyslexic. There’s no help in her native country, so Lan takes her daughter to America, where she struggles to get Meimei into the right school while working in an illegal sweatshop. It is, quite simply, the story of a mother who will do everything to make her daughter “normal,” even if that is both impossible and provides her with some exceptional mental gifts.
But Lan is hiding something from just about everyone: She too has dyslexia, and because of that, she’s illiterate. It’s quite clear that Meimei’s problem comes down from her mother’s DNA.
You can easily see what’s coming a mile ahead, and it’s almost always good for our protagonists. Lan’s loving husband isn’t happy about his wife and daughter going far away for who knows how long. The American teacher who first diagnosed Meimei in China arranged for Lan and Meimei to stay in the apartment of a wheelchair-bound writer (Amy Irving – who I haven’t seen in a new movie in decades). At first, the writer doesn’t like the new people in her apartment. They don’t know English. They make seemingly stupid mistakes. They eat loudly. But soon, the writer is in love with both of her wards and does everything she can to help.
This goes on over and over again. One person after another goes off on a limb to help Lan and Meimei. This includes teachers, testers, and even Lan’s employer. And, of course, back in China, lonely father works in his tailor shop, hoping for good news from a wife who can’t read or write.
But with all the goodwill, they still have problems – especially with schools. Meimei is placed in classes not ready for dyslexics. At one point, Lan must pay $5,000 just to get a test that can prove that she isn’t “normal.”
Speaking of normal, that awful word pops up often in the dialog (in both languages). The point, of course, is that there are better things than normal. And in many ways, assuming if you get the right teachers, being dyslexic can be much better than normal.
If you don’t know much about dyslexia, Confetti will give you a reasonable idea of what it’s like. The letters (in both Chinese and English) turn randomly upside down. In reading and writing classes, students make fun of the “stupid” girl. And yet, Meimei appears to be a genius when dealing with shapes and numbers. She can also do amazing things on a computer – although writing can be problem.
For what it’s worth, the story is based on writer/director Ann Hu’s own life.
Confetti opens Friday at San Francisco’s AMC Metreon and Santa Clara’s AMC Mercado.