Small Pleasures

(Canadian immigrants drama color)

Toronto Festival of Festivals 1993–Keith Lock's feature debut, Small Pleasures, is a raw but decent addition to a growing body of films (Combination Platter, The Wedding Banquet) dealing with multiculturalism and the experience of Asian immigrants in North America. Reportedly the first film written and directed by a Chinese-Canadian, timely, if also naive, pic may be of interest to viewers in big urban centers, where Asian immigrants reside.

Set in the spring of l989, during the politically tumultuous events of Tiananmen Square, the extremely beautiful Lily Zhang plays Sally, a young, ambitious woman, determined to make the most of her new, modern life in Toronto. She is contrasted with her roommate Zhao (Reimonna Sheng), also a recent immigrant, but one who still clings to the traditions of the old world.

Pic chronicles their daily existence: work in a restaurant, owned by a rigid Mr. Ying (David Chant), and affairs of the heart. Rebelling against the notion of an arranged marriage back home, Zhao ends up having an affair with Li An (Andy Xu), a dissident professor who works as a waiter in the same restaurant because he can't practice his profession.

The first part of the narrative is leisurely paced in setting the context of Toronto's Chinatown. However, in the second, story become overly melodramatic when the two women experience disenchantment. In what appears to be a reversal of stereotypes, Li turns out to be a married man with a wife in China. And Sally is forced into sudden maturity, when her white Canadian beau (Phillip Mackenzie) leaves for abroad.

For the sake of accuracy, Beijingers were cast to play Beijingers, and assimilated CBC (Canadian Born Chinese) play characters born there. This melange of accents promotes pic's authenticity, a crucial, but often missing, ingredient from other immigrants' sagas.

Small Pleasures contains charming performances by the two women (Zhang and Sheng), but it's the kind of heartfelt film in which characters spell out everything and mean exactly what they say. Still, as a first film, scripter-helmer demonstrates generosity of spirit and ample talent in handling his actors.

Credits

A Wondrous Light production. Produced by John Sutton and Keith Lock. Directed, written by Lock. Camera (color), Maurizio Belli; editor, Anna Pafomow; music, Kirk Elliot, An-Lun Huang; art direction, Bill Koon, Brenda Joy Lem, Henry Wang; sound, Steve Munro, Henry Embry; associate producers, Yan Cui, Leslie Padorr. Running time: 85 minutes

Cast

Sally……………Lily Zhang
Zhao…………Reimonna Sheng
Li An……………Andy X. Xu
Jack Kelly…Phillip MacKenzie
Mr. Ying………..David Chant