Review by Bob Greene
Chin-Wei Chang has the ability to – in a brief simple narrative – can break your heart.
Two short works – “Corn,” and “Dolly” share the production scheme of showing us the dark and painful vision of the family as seen through the eyes of an innocent child. “Corn” brings us into the world of a waitress – a single mother with a baby – and her alliance with a teen boy who aspires to be her “husband.”
Kai Johnson infuses his role of an innocent boy’s first encounter dealing with his emotions and handling the complexity of relationships with a particular brand of naivety mixed with bravura creating a performance that is both engrossing and moving. Nerida Bronwen’s waitress handed us a hardened edge that covered an inner life of pain. These two performers – under the deft hand of Chang – present a short film totally worth seeing. The ending twist twists a knife into your heart even deeper.
A companion piece for this film was another short, named after the main character. “Dolly” walks us to a terrible Christmas holiday for Steven P. Nemphos as a fed-up father; Shannon Mitchell as a mother just wanting to survive; and Angelina Karo as the titular Dolly, a little girl trying to not to grow up too soon. Here, Chin-Wei Chang’s hand is even more obvious and poignant as camera angles, slips of dialogue, and masterful and subtle performances take us by the heart and keep us hoping for a happy ending. Karo especially, and for one so young, displays an inner life narrative that both shows her vulnerability and immense talent.
As these two films are heavily based in reality, happily ever after is not an option.
Thought-provoking and inspiring however, are.
Chang, along with Lan-Chi Chien, provided the screenplays as well. One grows excited at the prospect of a major budget in the hands of this visionary director. That would make the Academy Awards interesting.