We are all works-in-progress. No one’s perfect. As children, though, we imagine (or wish) that our parents would be close to having their act together. Welcome to life. Such is the story of a young Cambodian-American woman in Thavary Krouch and Daniel Lamkin’s Bitter Melons.
Although he’s been gone for years, the “ghost” of Sophia’s father still lingers. On this late morning, Sophia is abruptly woken by her mother. Wanting Sophia to confront her anger, her mother begs her to deliver a sack of bitter melons she grew in her backyard garden (it tastes so good if it’s cooked right).
Defiantly, Sophia grabs the sack, and rather than visit her father, she heads straight to work as a sous chef at a local Asian restaurant. The head chef is angry that she consistently arrives late to work and tells her she will be making the family meal that night for the restaurant staff.
“…angry that she consistently arrives late to work and tells her she will be making the family meal…”
The title alone, Bitter Melons, tells of the symbolism on display here. Sophia’s unaddressed bitterness, though justified, sends her down the path of despair. It’s a story we can all relate to as it can seem that family exists only to disappoint. Like an artist, Sophia channels her anger into the family meal she prepares. Eventually, her artistic honesty is rewarded and brings her closer to another employee in the same situation as her.
This story of family is pretty straightforward, and though this is a Khmer-American family, it is easily relatable to anyone. Add in the food sub-plot and its diverse cast, and Bitter Melons proves a sweet story that is perfect for your short film viewing.
Bitter Melons screened as part of the Khmer Americana Showcase at the 2020 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Virtual Showcase.