"Motherland" lacks focus, stumbling from one emotionally fraught stopping place to another but arousing less and less curiosity along the way.
Director Doris Yeung’s first feature brings estranged lesbian daughter Raffi (Francoise Yip) back to San Francisco to unravel the mystery of her mother’s death. Leaving behind her home in Mexico, Raffi becomes embroiled in the bitter financial fallout from her parents’ long-ago divorce. But aside from the primacy of the beauteous Yip (“Rumble in the Bronx”), “Motherland” lacks focus, stumbling from one emotionally fraught stopping place to another but arousing less and less curiosity along the way. Familiar Asian cast may sustain the film in ancillary following its March 18 opening at Gotham’s Quad Cinema.
Staying with her rich, shady, remarried father (vet Hong Kong thesp Kenneth Tsang) and blindly wandering through her mother’s bloodstained house, Raffi indecisively weighs loyalties. Though largely composed of pensive closeups of Yip and noirish shots of family/suspects, “Motherland” floats in vaguely subjective confusion, its characters and events lacking sufficient definition to register as even ambiguous. Part detective story, part dysfunctional-family saga, the film evidently was inspired by the violent demise of Yeung’s own mother, and it sometimes feels like a working-out of trauma more therapeutic to its maker than enlightening to its audience.