The Home Song Stories

"Extraordinary"

The Home Song Stories Review


The Home Song Stories is Tony Ayres' divulgence of the most traumatizing, deeply personal events of his childhood. It's not often that a director summons the courage to bare his soul, but in Ayres' case, Stories isn't so much a film for self-expression as it is an experiment to better understand his late, manic-depressive mother. Whether you walk out of the theater hating, loving, or sympathizing for the director's mother, Stories succeeds in enabling you to see through the eyes of an angry, confused little boy -- who continues to exist in Ayres today with a broken heart.

Stories centers on Rose (Joan Chen), a Chinese nightclub singer struggling to raise two children in '70s Australia. A needy woman who demands constant attention, she goes through men like a monkey swinging from branch to branch. Rejection is completely unacceptable: Dump Rose and she'll attempt suicide, only to be discovered unconscious by her daughter and son.

It's heart wrenching to imagine children facing a sight as horrific as their dying mother, and Ayres injects the perfect amount of tension into these scenes to recreate the experience. Most interesting is the evolution of the children: They exhibit an extraordinary amount of patience toward their mom, but with each of Rose's suicide attempts, we see the brother (Joel Lok) and sister (Irene Chen) grow more frustrated, and a little jaded, as their innocence gets chipped away.

Ayres shoots Stories beautifully, setting a morose, rustic mood overall. The plot is linear, with the exception of a single flashback to Rose's childhood, which offers a glimpse into her psychoses. This scene is effective but not quite substantial enough to justify Rose's irresponsible actions. The ellipsis in the film is powerful in that it makes us share the director's desire, and perhaps frustration, to know more about his mysterious mother.

Though Stories is autobiographical, it manages to explore very relevant, prominent issues in Chinese culture. In traditional Chinese families, parents give males strongly favorable treatment since they possess the ability to pass on the family name. Rose is the embodiment of a neglected, repressed Chinese female, brought up to believe she has very little self-worth. As a result, she's extremely self-centered as an adult, relying on the affection and attention of men for self-validation; she treats her children as accessories that exist to represent her.

Ayres refers to this film as the story of his childhood, but interestingly the title contains the plural "stories." It's appropriate, too, because it's not just his story: It's a story of the archetypical Asian-immigrant mother, and it's a story of her second-generation children. Many in the Asian-American or Australian community will see at least a fragment of Rose in their mothers -- and they might walk away from Stories with a better understanding of themselves.

Not exactly "YMCA."



Facts and Figures

Run time: 103 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 23rd August 2007

Distributed by: Dendy Films

Production compaines: Spark Script Workshop, Film Finance, Film Victoria, Mediacorp Raintree Pictures, SBS Independent, Fortissimo Films, Big & Little Films Pty. Ltd., Porchlight Films, ScreenWest, Lotterywest, The New South Wales Film and Television Office, Australian Film Board

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Tony Ayres

Producer: Michael McMahon, Liz Watts

Starring: as Rose Hong / Hong Meigui, Yuwu Qi as Joe, Joel Lok as Tom, Irene Chen as May, as Bill, as Norma, Gabrielle Chan as Winnie, Guang Qiao Fenh as Young May, Leo Fong as Wen Xuan, as Bing Guo, Philip Lau as Chan, Fred Lee as Slick Chinese Man, Yang Li as Mr. Sun, Ivy Mak as Kim, Annette Shun Wah as Adult May

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