‘Turning Red’ review
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
I felt the nostalgia of my childhood in the film and the detailed features of Toronto including the brick buildings and the streetcars add to it as well.
In 2002, boy bands were at their peak so getting tickets to a concert involved lining up at the venue on the day of the concert or earlier. Fundraisers were common in schools, and digital technology was starting to evolve. That was my childhood as a fourth-grade student during that time and the social climate where I started to get interested in independent cinema. When Pixar announced that Turning Red would be set in Toronto, I was excited to see Toronto fully animated.
Luckily, this was not the first time Canada featured in a Pixar movie; the Academy Award-winning animated short film Bao where a housewife takes care of a dumpling as if it was her child had the CN Tower being recognized easily. Directed by Toronto’s Domee Shi, both Bao and Turning Red take place in the same world and are based on her childhood. In Turning Red, Shi is presented in the form of 13-year-old middle school student Meilin Lee (Rosalie Chiang).
She is pushed by her mother Ming (Sandra Oh) to do well at school and maintain their temple. The temple is dedicated to her relative Sun Yee and is the biggest temple in Toronto. Like some parents, Ming does not know that Meilin and her best friends are huge fans of a boy band called 4*Town which is kind of similar to recent boy bands. Meilin has other feelings too that make her emotional and she wakes up the next morning as a red panda.
This happened to her relatives before including her mother Ming; it is a vestige from Sun Yee to protect her family and because it is an inconvenience in today’s world, they must do a special ritual to seal the red panda in a talisman when the red moon appears which arrives in a month. Also, Ming does not allow Meilin to go to 4*Town’s concert at the SkyDome now named the Rogers Centre a day after her ritual. Simultaneously, Meilin and her friends try to keep the red panda under control as well as use it to raise money to get tickets to the concert that is going to change their lives.
Originally, the movie was to be released in theatres in line with the declining pandemic, however, Disney decided to still release the film on Disney+. The film tackles many aspects of growing up like family traditions and generational conflict. I felt the nostalgia of my childhood in the film and the detailed features of Toronto including the brick buildings and the streetcars add to it as well.
I am not sure if I was happy with the end of the film where it could impact either her family life or personal life in the long term. Ming would be described as a powerful mom and her not knowing Meilin’s interests created more problems. Her also not allowing Meilin to see her favourite boy band provides commentary on the current music scene and the different challenges that different generations have to face.
Interestingly, the songs by 4*Town were written by Grammy and newly Academy Award-winning singer Billie Eilish and her brother Phineas. Turning Red is a growing-up story that shows that there should be a balance between family and friends and depending on your age it could make you feel old.