top of page
  • Writer's pictureJamie

Dìdi - Review

Mothers are like dogs. Let me explain. If you put a dog in a film and make that dog experience emotions, I am going to be in a pool of my own tears. Similarly, if you put a mother in a film and make her feel emotion - especially with how stupidly good Joan Chen is in this film - I will also be sliding down the waterslide of tears and think about it forever. Dìdi rudely has made me cry, not only for a mother son relationship, but for the times of the late 2000s, where we were thrust into a psychological warzone of the early days of social media. This film captures this weird little pocket of time so perfectly that I am currently scrolling through my old Facebook, removing embarrassing statuses that I posted. 

Dìdi is set in the 2008 summer, with Chris / Wang Wang (Izaac Wang) in the summer before heading to high school. Where he is hanging out with friends, making YouTube videos and dealing with the perils of living with his older sister, Vivian (Shirley Chen), his mother, Chungsing Wang (Joan Chen) and his grandmother, Nai Nai (Zhang Li Hua). In classic 13 year old boy style, he is difficult to everyone except his grandmother. 

Through some new crushes, new friends and social pressures, his social circle and home life is changed. We get to see a tiny pivotal point in most people’s lives, the summer going into high school, when you don’t know what’s going on and everyone around you is prepping their reinvention. 

The story isn’t very “point A to point B”, meandering through a few different sections of the summer, with Chris’ new found crush, social media horrors and changing friend groups with new interests. I think all of them paint a really clear picture of Chris and his life, letting you in to see who he is and (kind of) where he’s headed. 

Its a really sweet story, with a lot to relate to, especially having grown up around the same time as Chris. The pressures of social media in particular struck me as being captured perfectly. The times when you sat at a desktop, scrolling friend’s lives and stupid status updates, or waiting for someone to respond to you. I think so much of that is lost today when I can just distract myself with another app on my phone or get a notification wherever I am that the person has responded. Social media has us all, but I think it had the late 2000s and 2010s kids in a trance and was the invention of FOMO, which Dìdi gets. 

While the kids are staring at an AOL chat, I was staring at the beautiful camera work in this film. Sam A. Davis creates such a homely feel with this film. The shots within Chris’ house are so inviting, especially in the kitchen or a scene later on in the film when Chris talks to Chungsing in her bedroom. The filming through camcorders aren’t afraid to be messy and low quality, because that’s what they looked like at the time. It’s cool to see a film not afraid to take the risks of just having some ancillary footage like that in there, inviting you into the time the film took place. 

To come back to mothers, I think this film does a really incredible job capturing a real relationship between a teenage boy and his mother. At a time when there are changes in their dynamic. Not the case for everyone, but I think many teenage boys have their time to reject their mother’s love because its suddenly embarrassing to have someone care about you. Dìdi shows the painful side for the mother, with a perfect portrayal from Joan Chen. Definitely made me call my mom after it. 

Joan Chen isn’t the only impressive performance in the film, with Zhang Li Hua playing Chris’ grandmother (and being Sean Wang’s actual grandmother) doing a stellar job as the caring grandparent who has a complicated relationship with her daughter in law. I also think the sibling dynamic is really well displayed, with Vivian and Chris being horrific and volatile to each other at every opportunity, but seeing there is so much love there, beneath the name calling and violent threats. 

Also crazy shoutout to the other kids in this film, who Sean says are mostly first time actors. This decision makes them all feel so natural, with an ease of being a teenager on screen. 

I’ve said this a few times, but I am so excited to see films by young creatives, capturing a time that I directly recognise and be able to be transported back there, even if some of it is nice to forget. I hope to be able to follow Sean Wang’s career as he goes on from his Oscar nominated short, to this beautiful feature film debut. I think he’s a really exciting voice in filmmaking, that I will show up for, anytime. 


bottom of page