Vietnamese record holder oscillates between sitcom and soap opera

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A big-hearted and deeply traditional Vietnamese father juggles the occasional wants, needs and indignities of his dysfunctional extended family in actor and comedian Tran Thanh’s “Daddy I’m Sorry”. This dramatic comedy is currently the highest grossing film of all time in Vietnam (beating “Avengers: Endgame”), so it’s no surprise that this is the country’s international feature film submission to the 2022 Oscars. Tran, who co-wrote the screenplay, strives to provide a multi-level picture of Vietnamese domestic life and is particularly concerned about the cultural changes that have widened the generation gap between older Vietnamese patriarchs and their families. native digital loads. But his film goes from histrionic melodrama to general comedy with such abandon that his concerns and ideas have little opportunity to integrate.

“Dad, I’m Sorry” is based on Tran’s hugely popular five-part web series. Here, the actor, comedian and former judge of “Vietnam’s Got Talent” plays Ba Sang, a middle-aged single father, riddled with debt, who lives in a dilapidated house in an alleyway in Saigon with his son Woan (Tuan Tran ) and 6-year-old girl Bu Tot (Ngan Chi). The alley is also populated by a wide variety of other characters, many of whom are blood relatives. These include his older sister Giau (Ngoc Giau) and his two brothers, the henpecked Phu (Hoang Meo) and the drunken party animal Quy (La Thanh), who owes a debt to the local thugs. If the residents have anything else in common, it’s their propensity to complain, and the tonnage of scathing dialogue spat on Blood by various children, siblings and in-laws becomes as annoying to him as it is to the audience.

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Because the story flies in more than directions than a holiday firework display, it cannot fully meet the needs of all of these characters. Worse, it stifles the film’s promising central relationship between Sang and Woan, depriving the viewer of a unique and illuminating assessment of modern Vietnamese intergenerational dynamics. Sang is part of an older generation of parents who have learned to sacrifice themselves for their families, even if it means paying their debts and being seen by others as a doormat. Young Woan in his 20s wants money and fame as a YouTuber, which neither Sang nor his family consider real work. This dynamic plays out early on when an ignorant but well-meaning Blood cleans Woan’s aged Gucci sneakers and mends his ripped Dsquared2 jeans in style. Meanwhile, Woan earns his father’s contempt after filling his chamber with water for his latest viral video, causing the alley to flood for no less than 35 supposedly comical seconds.

But exaggeration is the key word throughout “Dad, I’m Sorry”, especially in the second half when the story takes several heartbreaking turns, including the sudden urge for Blood from a kidney transplant. . Woan offers his kidney despite the double whammy for credibility of wearing a pacemaker and being a hemophiliac, while Quy’s generous donation assumes he can bypass the knife-wielding thugs who want their loan paid off. . If that’s not enough, Woan’s ex-girlfriend returns after an absence of several years with a plan to fabricate a scandal involving the young YouTuber who will launch her acting career.

Co-directors Tran and Vu Ngoc Dang deliver a fair amount of local color, and they sometimes give us a break from hyperactive events with a well-executed “oner,” including the shot where Woan and Sang discuss fatherhood. a major character. Otherwise, all too often the most reasonable family talks, let alone the emotional breakdowns and dramatic turnarounds, are launched at exaggerated levels. The laborious and heavy score, which Tran composed with Ngo Minh Hoang, goes from sitcom-style banter to dramatic thunder in seconds, as the performers push things to the limit, which the moment calls for laughter or tears. This includes 30-something Tran who vaguely passes for a middle-aged man with his hair dyed gray and his sleazy gray mustache. Among the leads, credit the tall and lanky Tuan with the most successful orientation of his performance towards the neighborhood of recognizable human behavior.

For Americans, the main disappointment in “Daddy I’m Sorry” is that the soap opera-level plot machinations, wild tone changes, and endless bickering prevent strangers from getting a good introduction to life in the world. ‘a contemporary working class Vietnamese family. While Tran has no obligation to tailor the action to audiences outside of Vietnam, especially since the film resonates very well in his territory, his comments on the Vietnamese patriarchal system, and how the younger generation get angry with him get lost in the cacophony. Indeed, Tran could become an international voice worth listening to if he stopped shouting.

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