I would prefer not to remain in this location.
The idea that the Western world, specifically Europe and the United States, is seen as a paradise has been ingrained in Asian culture for centuries. However, those who have experienced it firsthand understand that this is not always true. Films such as “Everybody’s Gotta Love Sometimes” shed light on this reality. “My Heavenly City” also follows this theme, sharing three stories that showcase both the positive and negative aspects of Asian immigrants in the United States, specifically New York City.
th of October
The film “Heavenly City” will be shown in UK movie theaters starting on October 10th.th
In November, courtesy of Trinity CineAsia.
Mavis Fang, a Taiwanese woman, was originally working on her doctoral dissertation. However, she decided to take a break due to personal issues. She struggled with feelings of loneliness, depression, and not fitting in with her new surroundings. In order to support herself financially, she takes on a job as a Mandarin translator for social services. This job proves to be much more challenging and demanding than she anticipated. Eventually, she crosses paths with 16-year-old Xiao Jian, an undocumented immigrant who is facing deportation. Despite his refusal to communicate with others, Mavis feels a strong connection to him and attempts to reach out and connect with him.
Jack, originally from Taiwan, moved to New York to pursue computer science. However, the workload and expectations from his parents take a toll on his mental health. He discovers solace in hip hop dancing, but it proves to be challenging at first. That is until he meets Lulu, a fellow dancer from Singapore who records dance performances. The two develop feelings for each other, but Lulu’s personal struggles start to emerge.
Also, take a look at this interview.
The third story centers on the experiences of Jason and Claire, a couple who moved to the United States two decades ago and currently reside in an affluent neighborhood in Brooklyn with their nine-year-old son, Jasper. Although the couple belongs to the upper middle class and have financial stability, Jasper faces challenges with Asperger’s, ADHD, and bipolar disorder. A disturbing incident in the park leads to police involvement and highlights Jason’s feelings of guilt for not being able to support his son and wife. In order to address these issues, Jason takes a leave of absence from work and seeks professional help for Jasper. During this time, the couple takes a short vacation and rekindles their relationship. However, their problems persist despite these efforts.
In all three stories, Yu Sen-I emphasizes that the West, specifically New York, often considered the birthplace of Western civilization, presents both advantages and challenges, similar to any other location on the planet. Beyond this overarching observation, which becomes more positive as the film progresses, each section delves into specific aspects of residing in the city and the problems that arise as a result.
The first part of the movie focuses on Yu’s exploration of immigration, insurance companies, and the challenges caused by language barriers. It also highlights how these barriers have provided opportunities for individuals like Mavis to find employment. The film also touches on the harsh reality of ICE and the corporate world, but does not portray any specific characters as villains. The overall tone is contained and effectively conveys important messages. Vivian Sung delivers an impressive performance as Mavis, portraying her inner turmoil with restraint and eloquence. One of the most memorable moments in the movie is when Mavis loses control for the first time.
The second portion focuses primarily on psychological issues, with Yu addressing the exploitation of young people and immigrants. The challenges of obtaining permanent residency in the US are also highlighted. The incorporation of hip hop adds entertainment value and serves as a potential solution for Jack’s problems, but this section is not as impactful as the others. Overall, the chemistry between Keung To and Jessica Lee as Jack and Lulu is a strong aspect of this segment.
The third section shifts focus from the struggles faced by Asians or foreigners, as the idea of a disabled child and the toll it takes on their parents is a universal experience. This part is the most intense and visually striking, with a particularly shocking and memorable violent scene. The interactions between the parents and their child feel authentic, even in their heightened drama, although there are moments where it veers into melodrama, such as the father’s monologue and the scene by the sea. However, this section is also the most visually stunning, thanks to Grant Greenberg’s cinematography which captures many beautiful images, including the beach scene which stands out as the most gorgeous in the movie. Logan Cheng delivers a standout performance as Jasper in this section.
Implementing omnibuses in movies has always been a challenge, as the quality of each segment is often uneven. This trend continues with “Heavenly City.” However, director Yu Sen-i effectively portrays a range of issues faced by immigrants and locals in the US in an engaging and authentic manner. The film’s three-story structure also helps make it more watchable.