Cast: Tiffany Chu, Teddy Lee, Octavio Pizano, James Kang
Director: Justin Chon
Ms. Purple turns out to be just another darling to come out of Sundance this past year. Of the ones that I’ve managed to see, there seems to be a general understanding that these movies are built on being smaller, more intimate movies where directors and actors have a special connection to the content they worked on. With Ms. Purple, we see yet another look into the hardships from the perspective of a unique and interesting culture. Emotionally relevant and well-acted, Ms. Purple shows a grim reality of the stress dying puts on us and the value of the relationships before they fade away.
The film follows Kasie (Chu), a woman taking care of her elderly father as he enters the final stages of his life. Over the course of 87 minutes, we watch as Kasie deals with the various jobs that she takes on to support her family but also has to deal with the re-emergence of her estranged brother Carey (Lee). I don’t think I’ve seen anything with the top-billed actors, but I have to say I’m incredibly impressed with what they manage to do with their time on-screen. In the leading role, Chu has the most material to work with but she manages to navigate the difficult emotional toll that these scenes carry and apply the necessary skill set in a tremendous fashion. Between figuring out what she needs to do to keep her family safe while also traversing the difficult and dangerous work environments that she’s been reduced to taking, Chu shows a variety of both desperation and resilience that very few actors can pull off and I hope this performance ends up taking her wherever she wants to go. On the other end of the spectrum, the dynamics between Kasie and her brother are compelling enough to keep audiences interested and shows an environment that some of may face but that nobody ever wants to be in. When you have one person who’s spent every moment of their life trying to keep their family in tact and you have another who has a much less connected and much more passive, it creates a level of tension that is realistic and natural given the intention of the movie. Sometimes it goes a little too far outside the spectrum of reality and it gets a little dramatic for the sake of being dramatic, but it’s never enough to truly detract from the rest of the movie. Maybe if the movie was just a little longer than the 87 minutes we were given the characters could’ve been given a little more content to strengthen the characters and the plot, but it’s strong enough to stand on its own and create a world where you can empathize with the movie in the way it’s intended. Depending on where you are in your life, Ms. Purple may end up reducing you to tears, especially if you lost a loved one recently, but for those not in that situation you will still be able to see the merit and quality of a movie like Ms. Purple.
Overall, I’m really liking all the independent movies coming out of festivals like Sundance and Toronto, and Ms. Purple fits that description in the best ways possible. Sensitive, creative, and caring, Ms. Purple changes emotional tone drastically from scene to scene and much like the cycle of life itself, it works in the context of this movie. I hope I never have to go through the struggle and pain that Kasie did in this movie, but if I do I know there’s a potential outlet out there in the form of movies like Ms. Purple.
Overall Score: 7/10