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Monday, December 19, 2005

Ethan Mao DVD review for This Week In Texas. Review written by Duane Simolke, author of Holding me Together: Essays and Poems -- Second Edition.

Ethan Mao

Out writer/director Quentin Lee (Drift) offers a low-budget, independent film about an Asian-American teen whose homosexuality puts him at odds with his tradition-bound family. However, Ethan Mao is hardly the typical coming out drama.

Ethan (Jun Hee Lee) was never the same after seeing his father (Raymond Ma) shoot a robber. Life gets worse for Ethan after his step-mother (Julia Nickson) finds a gay skin magazine in his room and Ethan’s father kicks him out.

After reluctantly becoming friends with the drug dealer and hustler Remigio (Jerry Hernandez), Ethan casually asks Remigio to go back to his family’s house with him while they’re gone. Unfortunately, they come back, leading to a hostage situation.

While the characters’ Asian background obviously informs their actions and attitudes, this certainly isn’t a movie that will appeal only to Asians, just as it shouldn’t appeal only to gays. The casting of Jerry Hernandez, a hilarious little scene with an Anglo neighbor, and the many ways that this family seems so strangely familiar all add to the movie’s universal appeal.

Distracting dream sequences and flashes of unconvincing performances mar this drama, but not enough to ruin Quentin Lee’s attempts at showing the difficulty of life for gay Asian teens. The characters all seem cold at some point, but their posturing conceals and intensifies deeper emotions. Even the friendship between Remigio and Ethan hides something more.

The ending is satisfying. After a series of unexpected turns, it makes the entire film worthwhile and Lee’s next movie worth anticipating.