Turning Red Movie Review: Breaking shackles
Turning Red, the latest Pixar movie centers on a mother-daughter relationship that breaks out of toxicity
The relationship between a mother and daughter is built on trust and understanding, and striking a balance between them is paramount for ensuring a conflict-free dynamic. More often than not, mothers tend to overstep boundaries. They are overprotective and push their views on life onto their daughters. It could be related to love, career or family. They expect the very best for and from their daughters every minute, of every hour, of every day. I am one of those daughters who wonders if anything I attain will ever make my mother happy, and proud. The tenuous relationship between us survives on fine balance and diplomacy. While there is nothing wrong with mothers wanting things for their daughters, the problem arises when they begin to intrude into every aspect of their daughter's life with the belief that they know best. It is this very territory that Pixar's latest — Turning Red — explores.
Director: Domee Shi
Cast: Sandra Oh, Rosalie Chiang, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Ava Morse
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar
The stage where both the mother and daughter not only love each other but respect each other as well is a journey that is often brushed aside in storytelling. However, Pixar's latest offering digs deep into this dynamics to deliver a film that draws a parallel between two generations of mothers and daughters.
Turning Red is about Meilin 'Mei' Lee (Rosalie Chiang) a Chinese-Canadian teenager who lives two lives. One where she pursues her interests and hobbies without interference from her mother -- Ming Lee (Sandra Oh), and another where she does everything that will impress her mother. Mei strikes a pretty fine balance by hiding her true self from her mother. But one fine day, Mei is forced to face up to the problems that arise from living this dichotomous life.
Puberty hits Mei in the most unexpected way and her pent-up frustration finds an unexpected outlet. This outlet helps her explore the idea of who she is as a person, and it also helps her get comfortable with the flaws that she finds in herself. However, this discovery is also cut short by her Not for long though, because in the long run, she is unable to escape her mother's interference.
The best thing about this Pixar film is the way it depicts the cycle of abuse. From mother to daughter, to her daughter — the cycle continues. It is a shackle that Mei breaks with support from her friends — Miriam (Ava Morse), Priya (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), and Abby (Hyein Park). In turn, Mei helps her mother to break the shackles that were put in place after the trauma the latter had experienced in the past. In fact, the pacing issues of the screenplay are forgotten in the face of this moment, which is subtle and at the same time powerful.
A wholesome scene in the film sees Mei holding her mother Ming's hands as they walk to face their fate. To accept an inherent genetic power or to turn away from it is a call that they need to make. Mei finds empowerment in owning her identity, both past and present. Her mother, however, is uncomfortable with the idea of her power having any influence on her, so she decides to give up on the generational power that has been bestowed on them for centuries.
Set in front of a mirror in the netherworld, there is a scene that features the daughter accompanying her mother to the gate where both of them can cut off from this power. Even though Mei and Ming choose different paths here, there is an understanding and acceptance between them, which gives birth to a beautiful, healthy mother-daughter relationship.
As poet Tuli Kupferberg said, "When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge."