Into the Light follows Ming Lee (Diana Rumjahn), previously seen in the short film Determined Spirits, as she tries to track down her deceased mother’s missing diary. With a lead that the diary is at a lost and found, Ming Lee heads there, only to come up against the undeserved ire of the lost and found owner, Jade Chung (Grace Ng Chan). Will Ming Lee find the diary? Why does Jade Chung not like Ming Lee?
If you’ve seen filmmaker Diana Rumjahn’s previous short film, Determined Spirits, then this one will have more narrative value to you than if not. Not surprising, considering this is a sequel, but if you were not aware of the torment that Ming Lee underwent in the first short then there are certain elements of this one that won’t make much sense to you. Focusing on it solely as a sequel, it does progress some of the narrative elements set up in the first one, so there are small pay-offs to enjoy.
Additionally, as a comparison and continuation with the first short, this one is far more straightforward a narrative. Determined Spirits operated in an ambiguous haze most of the time, and it worked for what it was. In this case, we’ve got more than just Ming Lee on screen, allowing for new characters and interactions, and a very obvious goal (find the diary). I frankly enjoyed the ambiguity of the previous short, as it allowed me to supply meaning in places where it wasn’t as clear. Here, while there are confusing elements, it’s almost too straightforward an experience.
That said, as a standalone short film, it can be a bit confusing. Not so much what happens, but character motivations. Ming Lee is hated by Jade Chung, but for reasons that, even when explained in the end, don’t necessarily connect with what we’ve seen. It is especially confusing when you consider, for as much as Jade Chung supposedly hates Ming Lee, that without Jade Chung, Ming Lee wouldn’t even know where to find her mother’s diary, and the picture contained within it.
In the end, I think Into the Light is better if you’ve seen Determined Spirits. If you haven’t seen both, I think Into the Light can make some sense, but is far less memorable; without its predecessor, it’s just a woman looking for her mother’s diary, and for some reason people don’t like her. The impact isn’t as strong. When you know the journey has been a bit more challenging and tenuous, it makes the eventual explanations and possible resolutions that much better.
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