If you’re gonna fly all the way to the States from the Far East, you may as well do the “tourist thing” while you’re here. At least that’s the thinking of Huan Kwan (K. K. Wong) and his sourpuss wife Suyin (Zhu Xi Juan). They’ve arrived in Los Angeles to watch their youngest daughter Maggie (Jo Chin) graduate from college. But first, like any good tourists, they plan to sneak in a little road trip to see America’s Big Crack.
Together with their cynical, business-oriented daughter Jenny (Yvonne Teoh), the Kwans pile into Maggie’s rattletrap car and set off on their grand adventure; a sweetly touching yet quirky and comical road trip that’s more a voyage of familial discovery than an exploration of the American southwest.
“See You Off to the Edge of Town” is a wonderful film. At times a little draggy, yes, but never for long. And the payoff in director Ching Ip’s film is almost always worth it as he fills out the story with a bevy of quirky little touches and follows through on his set-ups. We don’t just hear about Maggie’s flashy boyfriend Tommy (Christopher Chang), for instance. We meet him when he rescues the family after Maggie’s car inevitably breaks down and he’s a welcome addition indeed. Even if he does drive a hearse.
Ip lets his road trip unfold at its leisure, the film’s mood shifting nicely between nostalgia and angst, heartbreak and morality and gentle warnings to us all. It’s particularly poignant to watch the deterioration of the relationship between Huan and Suyin, already strained at the outset of the film and tugged even further by the stresses of this seemingly jinxed road trip. The film’s most powerful moments come from this relationship, especially when husband and wife recall their courtship under the guns of China’s Cultural Revolution.
Though not a perfect movie by any means, this is nonetheless an excellent family film with a bit of a bite. “See You Off to the Edge of Town” may not be as deep as the Grand Canyon perhaps, but it’s every bit as memorable.