Movie review: Duckweed is neither medieval nor the killer of Ted, but a sweet, time-traveling dramedy

After all the kung fu and food movies of the Chinese New Year season came and left–and were awesome–we saw the drama that remained.

Guess what? Duckweed is pretty rad, too, kind of like a mashup between the arty and understated melodrama of ’90s Hong Kong movies from UFO (He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Father; He’s a Woman, She’s a Man; Comrades, Almost a Love Story) and Back To The Future.

In the opening montage, rally car driver played by Deng Chao (The Mermaid) gets in a vicious accident and is sent back in time to visit his parents before he was born.

The situation is more tender than intense; there is no race against time to alter the course of history or save the world. Instead, our hero takes his time getting to understand his deadbeat dad played by Eddie Peng, a wannabe gangster with a heart of gold who runs a karaoke club tended by respectable and untouchable barmaids, and mysterious mom played by Zhao Liying. The plot is as unhurried as it is sweet, even as the shadow of development and capitalism creep over the small town.

There is plenty of warm but humorous nostalgia for China circa 1998, with references to a slower pace of life in the pre-cell phone era and the immortality of beepers. Under the measured guidance of second-time director Han Han, what could have a loving-but-hammy farce like Austin Powers turns out to be a very well cast and acted, thoughtful, and worthwhile diversion.

See it at Atlantic Times Square.

AMC Atlantic Times Square 14
450 N. Atlantic Blvd
Monterey Park


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