A complete aside: one of the most ludicrous scenes in Queen of the Morning Calm involves a poker game where a character loses straight over full house. Yes, that’s right, straight over full house. I recognize the purpose to this scene, to suggest that Sarge (Jesse LaVercombe) is a deadbeat. But if you’re going to use the “he’s a lousy gambler swimming in debt” cliché, maybe take the time to make sure that he actually is a lousy gambler? Queen-eight is the nuts on that board.
There isn’t much that separates Glora Kim’s Queen of the Morning Calm from your standard melodrama trappings, hence why I start with a bit of a tangent. In a number of ways, it reminds me of Caley Wilson’s Luba, a film that I felt was ultimately ineffective in its approach. The good news here is that this is more effective. Centering the story more around the struggling mother Debra (Tina Jung) and less on the flaky father figure means that Kim is able to wrangle more out of their story.
The bad news is that a large portion of the story also focuses on a precocious child (Eponine Lee). I loathe the dragged-out child is acting up story line, and in Queen of the Morning Calm Mona’s story really drags. It’s a strong performance from the young actress, but it’s a grating thread nonetheless.
And yet, I still think Queen of the Morning Calm is quite strong. Kim is willing to play with light in a way that is visually interesting. It helps that Jung really sells Debra and her intermingling exhaustion and hope. You would probably like the film to be more adventurous in its genre trappings, but this is a fine work within that space.
- Rated: NR
- Genre: Drama
- Release Date: 5/29/2020
- Directed by: Gloria Kim
- Starring: Aaliyah Cinello, Eponine Lee, Soma Chhaya, Tina Jung, Yana Gold, Zahra Bentham
- Produced by: Gloria Kim
- Written by: Gloria Kim
- Studio: Gloryous Productions
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