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Riceboy Sleeps ★★★★★



Director: Anthony Shim

Cast: Choi Seung-yoon, Ethan Hwang, Dohyun Noel Hwang, Anthony Shim

ReleaseBusan International Film Festival 2022

Have you ever seen a hidden gem at a film festival and you’re so glad that you discovered it there? The Busan International Film Festival has done it again with an amazing film titled Riceboy Sleeps, which is the second feature by Anthony Shim. After having its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, it’s been winning some prestigious awards and getting some very positive reviews along the way.

Set during the 1990s, a single mother named So-Young (Choi Seung-Yoon) moves to Canada with her young son Dong-Hyun (Dohyun Noel Hwang as a kid and Ethan Hwang as a teenager) after losing her husband in her home country of South Korea. Life has been very difficult for them as they try to overcome some racial struggles they face as Korean Canadians. The two have a special bond with one another, with an important focus on the overall theme of family. It’s an honest and touching portrayal of what it means to be an Asian immigrant in Canada, especially since the movie inspired the director’s childhood in Vancouver.

Our lead actors are fantastic, as their wonderful performances carry this emotional and personal story from start to finish. You really do connect with these characters, and you can tell the actors have been feeling a lot of things after reading the script. More importantly, it’s so interesting to see Dong-Hyun’s growth as a human being because it’s fascinating to see the life of a young Asian immigrant born and raised in a different country. The director makes sure to flesh them out as the movie goes on by giving them some depth and depicting a truthful context of their lives.

The first time you’ll notice right away is that Riceboy Sleeps is a compelling mix of Minari and Mid90s in terms of narrative and filmmaking. People will inevitably compare the film to Minari because they’re both similar regarding a storyline of a Korean family trying to live in North America. When it comes to the tone, Riceboy Sleeps is a lot more devastating, with some scenes that will emotionally break you. It’s superbly shot with stunning camera work from Christopher Lew. There are breathtaking long-take sequences, which certainly help elevate the story with meaningful dialogue moments between the characters. Since the movie takes place in the 1990s, the aspect ratio takes you back to that era. Everything flows well because the director takes his time with pacing and character development. It does admittedly feel a little longer during the third act, but you’re able to let it go knowing it’s a crucial element of the premise.

Seeing more Asian stories set in Canada is truly beautiful, which Shim should be commended for. It’s an incredibly beautiful piece of cinema with a premise that deserves to be told in front of the camera. It’s not every day you get to see a director’s vision come to life on the big screen, especially if you know that it’s hard to make features nowadays in the industry. Riceboy Sleeps is a phenomenal film.

Steven Lee has always been passionate about movies. He also writes for Short Ends, Montreal Rampage, That Moment In and Borrowing Tape.

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