Short Film Review: Grace Wang’s “The Trip”

A mother and daughter’s weekend sojourn to a seaside town is the seemingly simple, yet emotionally rich and poignant storyline of Grace Wang’s lovely 17-minute short film, “The Trip.” Wang was one of Roger Ebert’s “Far-Flung Correspondent” critics, and her film reviews and other writing (which you can read here), were always beautifully poetic and perceptive. Those qualities successfully translate to her filmmaking.  “The Trip,” Wang’s third short film, evocatively uses silence, and the emotional negative space of words unspoken and unarticulated feelings to chart the passage of her two characters’ conflicts and eventual reconciliation.

Set in Tobermory, Ontario, a popular Canadian vacation spot, “The Trip” follows a mother (Chris Wong) and her daughter (Corry Ng) as they set out on a weekend outing, where they go to the beach and visit the lighthouses. There’s a palpable tension between the two, especially on the part of the daughter, who expresses some irritation with her mother over seemingly minor matters such as music on the car radio, and whether the room in which they stay has north or south facing windows.

However, these tensions slowly begin to slip away when the two women spend time together among the vast expanses of sand and the ocean, and they begin to appreciate these rare moments. The daughter’s voiceover poignantly places these scenes in the past; the elusive nature of time emerges as a major theme of the piece. The mother and the daughter carry cameras with them, not only for the obvious vacationing tourist purposes, but as a way to capture at least a piece or a representation of their time together before it inevitably slips away.

“The Trip” is a wonderful example of the efficacy of the short form to be a cinematic analogue to a literary short story. Character histories and emotional atmosphere are poetically evoked and suggested without needing to be weighed down by mundane and unnecessary specificity. The heavy burdens of the mother and daughters’ past, as well as the healing of their rift are skillfully embedded by Wang and her collaborators in the mesmerizing flow of images, capturing the unique visual qualities of its Tobermory setting.

“The Trip” is also notable for the fact that it is nicely acted by a nonprofessional cast, as well as for it being created by filmmakers and a crew largely consisting of women of color. This is shamefully still a relatively rare thing; this film shows what is possible when a multiplicity of voices, perspectives, and richly multivalent cultural experiences are given the chance to enrich us as viewers.

“The Trip” is now available to view though the month of July on Comcast On Demand, along with a package of other films sponsored by the Center for Asian American Media. For more information on how to see it, click here.