- Rain Breaw
- Reviewed by
- José Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Monday, May 14, 2007
In 1992 San Diego, Sann (Tony LaThanh) lives with his mother Orn (Mony Sing) and sister Borya (Jenn Wong). They run a small donut shop and have a generally quiet existence. But their past still haunts them every day, and Sann’s way of expressing it is by drawing impressive graffiti murals. One day Orn hires an illegal immigrant from Central America, Ana (Vanessa Born), and Sann reacts with hostility, not able to come to terms with his own existence and purging his frustrations into someone else.
Rain Breaw wrote and directed this short film which was made possible with the help of The Caucus Foundation, the National Theater Owner's Association and the Samuel & Lorenza Gary Finishing Fund. The director has said that this story is quite personal to her heart and you can notice that in every carefully set-up scene, not only because of how well-handled every detail is, but because of the instantly palpable sentiment that she imbues within her frames. Breaw shows she’s got what it takes regarding storytelling in the cinematic medium. Her film flows effortlessly and captivates us by saying so much with so little.
The emotional core of the story lies in the way Sann gradually finds a catharsis in his own life through his attitude, and eventually actions, towards Ana. He is a nice fellow deep down, but like most of us he canalizes that energy in both good and bad ways. His drawings and the world he creates in them are very personal and full of pain, but so is his approach towards real life and the people that surround him despite the immense love he feels for them. His mother can only stare, preoccupied and being there for him, but it is Sann who must find his own redemption and deal with the consequences of his acts.
Underpass is very well put-together. Charlene Sun’s cinematography is beautiful, and Dengue Fever and Chhom Nimol’s music is appropriately haunting. LaThanh’s lead performance is excellent; we can feel his pain and doubts by just looking at his eyes, and he conveys every nuance with careful precision. Sing, on the other hand, is somewhat stilted, but she earns points for being a real-life activist who suffered through the horrors of Cambodia.
“People come and go... but we survive because of each other.”
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