×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Wayne Wang on ‘Coming Home Again’ and the Legacy of ‘The Joy Luck Club’

Wayne Wang’s “Coming Home Again” unfolds largely over the course of a single day as a young Korean-American man tries to prepare a New Year’s Eve feast using his ailing mother’s recipes. It’s a movie that celebrates the enduring connection that many of us feel between food and family.

The film premieres Saturday night at the Toronto International Film Festival in a Special Presentation slot.

“Growing up with my mother, cooking was a basic way that we communicated,” said Wang, the veteran filmmaker of “The Joy Luck Club” and “Maid in Manhattan,” who directed the low-budget film. “We didn’t have many deep psychological conversations and when we did talk, it was mostly about food. The way she expressed her love for me was to cook and the way that I demonstrated my love for her was to eat until I was stuffed.”

When “The Joy Luck Club” came out in 1993, it was hailed as a watershed moment as one of the first studio movies to feature a predominantly Asian cast. However, change proved slow to come and the decades that followed didn’t lead to an outpouring of Hollywood movies that highlighted Asian or Asian-American performers and filmmakers. With the success of 2018’s “Crazy Rich Asians” and 2019’s “The Farewell,” the situation does appear to be improving, said Wang.

“Very slowly I think people are realizing there’s a market for films about Asian experiences,” said Wang. “That’s a good thing and I’ll keep my fingers crossed. I may be too old to see it happen, but I do think that a big change is coming soon.”

Coming Home Again” is based on a personal essay by Chang-rae Lee, but the story of a son having to care for a terminally ill parent resonated with Wang. He drew on his own experiences helping to look after his father and mother in their final days as he prepared to tell the story.

“Emotionally, it’s universal,” said Wang. “At some point, all of us have to deal with a parent who is sick or dying.”

Wang also tried to strip away as much of the conversational interplay as possible, preferring to focus the camera on his lead actors, Justin Chon and Jackie Chung, as they perform household tasks, washing produce and marinating beef or changing the IV bag. That approach, Wang says, is what distinguishes indie productions such as “Coming Home Again” from the larger studio films he’s overseen.

“More and more, Hollywood films are so dependent on dialogue,” said Wang. “When you read a script, it’s almost like reading a book. A [director of photography] friend of mine came up to me once and said, ‘It’s almost like shooting a radio show.’ I didn’t want that. I wanted to make a visual film where action reveals character.”

Wang also wanted to underplay the emotion, something he sometimes felt he had failed to do in his previous work.

“I always felt that with ‘The Joy Luck Club,’ as great as that film was, there’s a lot characters crying in the movie,” said Wang. “I felt guilty about that. There’s a horrible tragic situation in this movie of a son watching his mother die, but I didn’t want there to be so many tears. It’s the things in the house, the mementos and pictures, that provide the emotions, not the crying.”

 

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Benjamin Wallfisch - scoring session, Abbey

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch Signs With Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch has signed with the Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency (GSA) for worldwide representation, in partnership with London-based agency COOL Music Ltd. A top composer, whose scoring credits include “It Chapter Two,” Shazam!” Hellboy,” “Hidden Figures” and “Hostile Planet,” among others, Wallfisch has worked on over 75 feature films and is a member of the BAFTA [...]

  • The Moneychanger

    Toronto Film Review: ‘The Moneychanger’

    Uruguayan auteur Federico Veiroj (“The Apostate,” “Belmonte”) broadens his usual intimate dramatic scope to diminishing returns for his fifth feature, “The Moneychanger,” . Adapted from a novella by compatriot Juan Enrique Gruber, the period (mid-1950s to mid-1970s) tale centers on the eponymous character, an amoral currency exchanger, who winds up laundering some of the dirtiest [...]

  • Send Me to the Clouds

    Film Review: ‘Send Me to the Clouds’

    The social and economic pressures felt by China’s “leftover women” — referring to those older than 26 and unmarried — are examined in “Send Me to the Clouds,” a rewarding dramedy about a 30-ish journalist seeking financial reward and sexual fulfillment after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Bold by mainland standards for presenting a positive [...]

  • Jamie Bell Without Remorse

    Jamie Bell Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse' Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jamie Bell is in final negotiations to join Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel “Without Remorse.” Stefano Sollima, who most recently helmed “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” is directing from a script by “Sicaro” screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. As previously announced, Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known [...]

  • Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter,

    'Downton Abbey' Movie Sequel? Producers Tease That They Have 'Some Ideas'

    “Downton Abbey” holds the record as the most-nominated international show at the Emmy Awards with 69 nominations and 15 wins — and now, it stands a chance to nab an Oscar. More than three years after the beloved series signed off the air following six critically-acclaimed seasons, “Downton Abbey” is making its big-screen debut. “It [...]

  • Todd Phillips Joaquin Phoenix Joker Movie

    What's Woker Than 'Joker'? Film Critics Made Everything Political at Fall Festivals

    “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” asks Joaquin Phoenix, playing a deranged incel version of the DC supervillain in “Joker,” the unconventional comic book movie that’s sucked up much of the air from the fall festival circuit. Like an aggro caricature of the “involuntary celibates” who troll message boards online, [...]

  • Running Against the Wind

    Young Africans' Dreams Are Focus of Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda Oscar Picks

    Films about young Africans trying to fulfill their dreams in the face of war, poverty, tradition and other forms of adversity have been submitted for Oscar consideration by three East African nations. The selections by Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda to compete in the international feature film category reflect the relative youth of filmmaking in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content