GRANDMA IN JULY Gently Hits Home with its Moving Story and Well-paced Script about a Wandering Spirit3 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
Director: Kai Xiang Chang
Cast: Zhu Xiu Feng, Ron Goh, Peggy Tan
Language: Chinese with English subtitles
Runtime: 17 minutes
Grandma in July is about having a second chance to see your loved ones even after death. Ah Ma has been returning home from the netherworld in search for a lost family jewel, but this time, her grandson (Xing) is able to see her.
Review by Nadia Alang
This short film is not what I thought it would be – it reels you in with an introduction that is silly and lighthearted but then does a 180-flip on your emotions. It unexpectedly takes on a bittersweet tone propelled by a moving narrative about a wandering spirit who finds her way back home to her grandson.
We are introduced to Xing (Ron Goh) a young, goofy man who is all tucked in for a stay-home-alone night with a toilet roll and a bottle of lotion, until his attention is caught by some disturbances in the house. The horror element of this story is not the main focus but it is not undermined either, with an imitation of the infamous kitchen scene from The Sixth Sense among other disquieting instances.
This is balanced with humour performed well by Ron Goh who hysterically holds out a cross and an amulet as defense against.. the kitchen? The exaggeration of his terror is comical but relatable at the same time because what else would you do? Although Xing’s character is not fully developed and it’s hard to pin down the kind of personality he is supposed to embody, Ron Goh’s performance makes him immediately likeable.
There’s hardly any grandeur about the film and this gives it a very homely vibe. With simple costumes and a house that is generally well-kept but also messy, it is not difficult to believe that this could be real life. Plus, we are no strangers to the idea of spirits coming back to settle their unfinished businesses.
As it turns out, the spirit responsible for Xing’s scare is his Grandma, and played by the amiable Zhu Xiu Feng, this spirit is far from daunting. Furthermore, it is moving to see the two bond during their brief time together. The script paces this well, with exchanges in a homely setting that gives us a visual as well as dialogical insight into their relationship.
Just when we begin to feel moved by their affectionate relationship, flashbacks reveal a brief context about Grandma’s passing. There’s nothing gory about it – even though at the start, we get a sense of ‘horror’ when she first appears, the bright tones and elegant textures in the flashbacks give death a gentle touch. As the film progresses and the reality of her impermanence sets in, Xing’s jovial demeanour changes as well and we are left empathetic of this young man.
In such a short span of time, the film has plenty of pleasant surprises lurking around. Beginning with an interesting mix of horror and humour, it turns out to be a story that delicately deals with love and loss.
You can catch Grandma In July here.