Directed by Tam Tran/Review by Monali Majhi
Wars might end but the aftereffects never do. Tam Tran toys with this idea throughout her movie “Her Little Rose”. The movie is important not only with its depiction of War related trauma and subsequent illness but also how it affects the people around the one concerned. Tran chooses to depict the past not in motion picture but through sand art. It shows how the Fall of Saigon changes family dynamics forever.
The Fall of Saigon (1975) marks the end of Vietnam War which caused a bloodbath in Vietnam. In the days before the fall of Saigon, all American military and civilians were evacuated along with thousands of South Vietnamese in Operation Frequent Wind, the largest helicopter evacuation in history. A large number of the refugees settled in United States and Canada after having a traumatic experience which was etched in their memories for ever.
Tam Tran plays a masterstroke when she chooses to depict the problematic situation not of a first generation refugee but of a second generation refugee daughter who has the responsibility of her ailing mother as well as of her own family. We see Rose in her kitchen for the first time preparing food for the family. She soon finds out that her mother is lost. We later know that his mother is a patient of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s, as we all know, is a form of dementia where memory becomes fragmented, sometimes fixed. In Rose’s mother’s case, her memory is fixed at the time of evacuation from Vietnam where she lost her little Rose. When Alzheimer’s sets in, she tries to find her little Rose to feed her. Ironically, she herself is lost before lunch. A kind police officer guides her home and tells Rose that his mother also have the same disease. War spares no one.
Herself a mother, Rose left her job as a Mathematics teacher to take care of her mother, Anh. She does not want to put her mother in nursing home after everything the poor woman has been through. Things start to get bitter between her and the husband. The solution comes when her mother overhears them and decides to have a open conversation with her daughter.
We are but intrigued to ask whether Rose’s daughter holds the same fate as Rose since her mother keeps mistaking Rose’s daughter for Rose.
The director asks some important questions throughout her film. What to become of second generation refugees with all the responsibilities that they have in a foreign land like Canada? How much cultural conflicts affect the refugees? How does one provide care with Alzheimer’s patients while maintaining a job? Even if one does not reach to any conclusions, asking the questions are an important step. And Tam Tran takes it.
Christian Gillian’s “Anh” delivers the helplessness of the mother pretty well. Her portrayal of the character before the pier of her late husband’s photo evokes our pity and we share her trauma. We also cannot blame her daughter. Mary G. Nguyen’s Rose is very promising. Rose’s dilemma, her concern and overall her responsibility for her mother and family is deeply conveyed by Nguyen’s acting. The songs are melancholic and bear the touch of folklore of Vietnam in them. Micco Farahanchi’s camera supports Tam Tran’s vision into creating a successful narrative. He is also the editor of the film.
The cast and crew did a credible job in bringing the story to life. Their venture is a commendable one. And they have been honest with their work. The sand art work is nice. The movie stays with you even after it’s over.