Vietnam has seen significant progress for queer rights and representation in recent years, including the legalisation of same-sex marriages in 2015. Yet, like in many countries that have suffered colonial trauma, queer people still struggle to find a safe and loving place in their culture. The dynamic is explored in director Trinh Dinh Le Minh’s sweet debut feature film Goodbye Mother.
Nau Van, the heir of a Vietnamese family, is returning home from the United States for the first time in nine years. It’s an emotional homecoming, as it marks the memorial of his father’s passing, and he must prepare for the ceremony. He is also bringing his Vietnamese-American boyfriend, Ian, under the guise of friendship, since he is not out to his family. Van’s mother has taken over the family business, but expects her son will soon fulfill those duties, get married and have children. Van struggles to resist his loving but single minded mother’s expectations, torn between his duty to his family and the freedom of his life abroad with Ian. To make matters even more confusing, upon their arrival Van’s grandmother, who has dementia, immediately mistakes Ian for her beloved grandson. In an instant, Ian becomes the vehicle through which Van can connect to his family, complicating the traditional coming-out narrative to tender and comedic effect. This charming family drama is also a bittersweet tale that will feel familiar to many of us who often feel forced to choose between our families and our lovers, our cultures and our sense of self. It’s an honest and sensitive portrayal of the compromises queer people of colour have to make to stay connected to the people we love most.
Goodbye Mother | Trinh Dinh Le Minh | Vietnam | 2019 | 106 min | Vietnamese with English Subtitles
Goodbye Mother will be preceded by Bakla. Brandon, a queer Filipino-American grandson, meditates through his anxiety of having to call and wish his grandmother Happy Birthday.
Bakla | Brandon English | USA | 2019 | 5 min | English and Tagalog with English Subtitles