Paper Marriage Image

Paper Marriage

By Alan Ng | May 7, 2024

LOS ANGELES ASIAN PACIFIC FILM FESTIVAL 2024 REVIEW! Jeff Man, a first-time director, shares a personal story about love and U.S. immigration in the dramatic film, Paper Marriage. The film opens with the final details of the impending paper marriage between Jeff (Jeff Man) and Fanny (Effy Han). Fanny is on the verge of being deported back to China, and marrying Jeff is her last option. The plan is simple. Jeff and Fanny will get married in the eyes of the law. They will remain married for four years, and Jeff receives a grand a month for his trouble.

Well, simple is not precisely true. First, the pair has to convince U.S. Immigration that they are indeed a couple in love. This requires a series of study sessions about one another, plus they need to concoct a story of their whirlwind romance. Further complicating the problem, Jeff is a bit awkward regarding relationships. He quickly develops feelings for Fanny, who insists this is purely a legal partnership.

Complicating things even more…now there’s a wedding to plan. Jeff is also hiding the business arrangement from his parents and sister, who are overjoyed that their son is going to get married.

Strip everything away from Jeff Man’s Paper Marriage, and you’re left with a story about human connections. The idea of Paper Marriage is not new, considering Green Card starring Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell. As Green Card had more money and bigger star power, Paper Marriage grounds the idea in reality and then explores the ramifications of such a proposition.

Jeff is an introvert in every sense of the word. He has a hard time speaking for himself. In the back of his mind, he sees this potentially being more than a business arrangement. On the other hand, Fanny is not a big fan of Jeff. In her mind, they are roommates, and she is free to be with anyone she wants, which makes for awkward mornings at their home.

“Fanny is on the verge of being deported back to China, and marrying Jeff is her last option.”

The relationship heats up as they must learn everything they can about one another and then concoct a love story. Rather than live separate lives in one home, Jeff and Fanny give the friendship thing a go. Fanny meets Jeff’s family, who are more connected to Fanny’s home in China than Jeff. The biggest struggle for the pair is Jeff and the million thoughts racing through his head about his desire for Fanny and the reality of the situation.

With the pieces in place, exploration is the best term for Paper Marriage. Nothing is ever simple or straightforward in this relationship. There are moments to root for Jeff and Fanny, and then there are moments of profound sadness. For fans of this plot, the road goes to an unexpected place…I’ll just leave it at that.

My personal negative is Jeff’s character. He’s a bit too much of a nerd and introvert with the vibes of The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Sometimes, I just want to scream, “Get a backbone…stand up for yourself.” I understand this is important for the plot, and maybe my feelings for the character mean that I’m too engaged with the character. I’m reminded that engagement means I’m connected with the character…which is a good thing in film. Now convince the audience that this is good engagement.

Effy Han is great as Fanny. Fanny is assured of what she wants, and nothing will deter her. Unfortunately for her, this friendship with Jeff starts to grow, and this becomes her personal challenge.

Paper Marriage is a touching tale of a contracted marriage of convenience and hits on everything the situation entails. Though told simply, there is nothing simple about where writer/director/star Jeff Man chooses to take his audience. Ultimately, it’s an indie film with a lot of heart that leaves a view with much to think about once the credits roll.

Paper Marriage premieres at the 2024 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

Paper Marriage (2024)

Directed and Written: Jeff Man

Starring: Jeff Man, Effy Han, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Paper Marriage Image

"…a touching tale of a contracted marriage of convenience..."

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