The Joy Luck Club (inspired by Films to be buried with)

2 Mar

Crying because of something you see in a movie is a disorienting experience. It’s cathartic, so at times it’s an experience to seek out, and yet at other times it’s an experience to avoid. Because you know how you’ll react. For a while now, my Dad has been reminding me that “The Joy Luck Club” is newly recorded on our TV, and yet I hesitate to watch it. Maybe some evening when I’m all alone, and need a good cry. Or when I miss my Mom.

I don’t think it usually pops up on lists of movies that make audiences cry- it’s no “Dead Poets Society”- but it’s about the relationships between a set of mothers and daughters- specifically, immigrant mothers. Naturally, the comparison to my family is apt, since my Mom was born in Mexico, the only one of her friends to not be born in the U.S. Yet there are aspects of her life in the old country, and her striving for a better life in America, that resonate in the movie. One obvious theme that comes through is the idea that mothers will do anything at all for their children. I recall a scene where an exhausted woman leaves her howling twin babies by the side of the road, as she continues on her journey with one older child. Then, towards the end of the film, this grown baby, now an adult, travels to China to meet the twin sisters she never knew. The durable ties of family. Cue the tears.

The one scene, besides that one, that always gets my tears flowing is the one where this same daughter, played by Ming-Na Wen, argues to her mother that she is nothing like her peers because she isn’t as smart, or beautiful, or successful. Her mother stops her and says, “You have perfect quality heart. I see you”. I can barely type the sentence without tearing up now! What a resolution to a difficult mother/daughter relationship. Maybe I relate to the young woman who always compares herself unfavorably to her peers, and just wants that familial (motherly) recognition. I see you. It’s so simple, and so moving.

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