Meditation Park at Tiff
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(September 11, 2017 – Toronto, ON) Some directors form unofficial repertory companies. The late Robert Altman for example, or Woody Allen, John Sayles or David Mamet. What they also have in common is the fact they are writers as well as directors. In Canada you can find this in the films of David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan and Bruce McDonald to name just three.
When Mina Shum cast Sandra Oh in her latest feature, Meditation Park, which had it’s World Premiere on Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), it would be the third time they would work together. Shum also returned to East Vancouver for this film, an area she has used before.
In the press notes from distributor Mongrel Media, Sandra Oh talked about the film.
“After I read the script for the first time I was struck by how beautiful, subtle and deep it was. Really, I feel like Mina wrote a love letter to Asian immigrant moms and I really wanted to be a part of it. It’s a beautiful story. The first film Mina and I made together, Double Happiness, was a coming-of-age story for young women, and Meditation Park is more of coming-into-independence story of a 60-year-old Chinese Canadian mom who, because of certain circumstances that arise in the story, moves her into her independence,” said Oh.
Co-star and the main focus of the film is Cheng Pei Pei who plays the 60-year-old Maria Wang. Her take on the film? “I believe the heart of the story is telling people that no matter what, you should have space for yourself, for opinions, for change, because you are still alive. It’s very important no matter if it’s a woman like Maria or not, that everyone live a fulfilled life, regardless of age or any other factor.”
She also said, “I think Mina wanted to show how women want to have freedom, giving them a voice and I like this kind of story very much.”
Reviewers have been asked to hold their full reviews until the film goes into theatrical distribution, probably early next year.
There is a basic honesty in this film. An honesty that is anchored in the fact life is real and at any moment can throw you a surprise. In this film the surprises are many and the pain they cause is deep. Meditation Park begins as a light drama but quickly morphs into something far more serious. Thankfully the actors bring their own full range of emotions. Lead actors Cheng Pei Pei and Tzi Ma are wonderful in their individual strengths and weaknesses. Sandra Oh and Don McKellar have smaller roles. Oh, in a way, plays a continuation of her character in Double Happiness, now in this film fully embracing a modern Canadian life. There’s one scene with McKellar that is almost wordless but carries a remarkable punch strictly through a surprising moment of tenderness.
Meditation Park will have its 2nd screening tonight at 6:45 at the Scotiabank 2 in downtown Toronto. It will screen again on Wednesday and Friday of this week.
Ralph Lucas is the founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in 1976.