David Cho is in that curious threshold between late teens and manhood. He lives in a tight-knit, traditional home in the heart of Koreatown, Los Angeles, with his first-generation parents. David works at the family restaurant, but business is slow and the restaurant is forced to close.
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It is this curious—but not timid—desire that propels the film past the clichés of exotic memorabilia and self-conscious didacticism and into a higher dimension of complexity, precisely because we see and feel through David’s eyes, and the sensations running through his body.
The film takes too much time to portray David’s achingly slow and incomplete coming-out process, but its focus on the interior maelstrom of a teenager is extremely insightful. David is a dutiful son and a gay kid yearning to be himself in a community where that is just not done.
There have been upbeat coming-out films (But I’m a Cheerleader) and tragic, infuriating ones (Boys Don’t Cry, Brokeback Mountain). Andrew Ahn’s Spa Night is executed on a significantly smaller scale, a deliberately anticlimactic one, which makes it all the more doleful.
i really enjoyed certain scenes for capturing so many elements of a queer second gen asian immigrant experience. the distinct socal azn inflection heard in the USC kids suited their silly, amateur acting. the subtleties of the insidious model minority attitudes that tinted every interaction with family acquaintances were p relatable. also yess queen to more queer asian men desiring each other on screen in the US of A
2-3. A pretty, if boring, naturalist articulation on the economic and sexual hardships faced by a KorAm teenager, who doesn't fit into the American dream his parents envisioned for him. Nice in that it dodges some tropes of gay cinema, but unfortunately doesn't really go anywhere substantial (a pitfall of naturalist fiction). Still, it's politically intriguing beyond its gay lead.
i wanted to love this considering its both a story that needs to be told and one that i can heavily relate to (being a gay vietnamese american young adult). unfortunately the writing, acting, and editing weren't amazing and i can't bring myself to give this more than a 6/10
One of the very best films from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. This is a touching, intimate look at the life of a closeted Korean-American teenager living with his immigrant parents. Ahn brings us so close we may as well be sitting at the dinner table. He creates a film that feels so genuine that it comes off as effortless. It's a beautiful film that will move you to tears.