Meditation Park

Filed in Film by on March 3, 2018 0 Comments

Mina Shum

A 60-year-old subservient wife strikes a blow for women’s rights in Mina Shum’s low-key but forceful film, Meditation Park, which opens in Canada on March 9.

The Chinese Canadian woman in question, Maria Wang (Cheng Pei Pei), lives in an immigrant district in Vancouver. An ideal submissive spouse as far as her husband, Bing (Tzi Ma), is concerned, she’s obedient and respectful. She does not rock the boat, even after she finds a frilly orange thong in the laundry which does not belong to her.

Maria suspects that Bing, who’s just celebrated his 65th birthday, is having an affair. But she doesn’t confront him because she’s such a traditional woman. Better the status quo than a full-blown confrontation with the assertive breadwinner of the house.

As Maria stews in her juices, she vents her pent-up frustrations. Feeling “useless,” she suddenly announces her intention to find a job. “I need a purpose,” she explains. Bing humors her, assuming no one will hire Maria. She finds a temporary position answering the phone in an insurance company, but she’s flummoxed by the multitude of calls and quits.

Cheng Pei Pei and Sandra Oh

In the next few scenes, Maria, sitting in the back seat of a taxi, follows Bing in an amateur surveillance operation. And then, in another abrupt move, she tries to learn to ride a bike. Ava (Sandra Oh), her married daughter, is puzzled by her behavior. “Are you having a midlife crisis?” she asks pointedly. Shum, the director and screenwriter, portrays Maria’s attempts to assert herself with empathy and precision.

Shum introduces another element of the movie when Ada raises a sensitive issue with her father. Charlie, her brother, is getting married, and Ada believes the family should attend his wedding. Bing, having disowned him a decade ago, is still estranged from his son and refuses to reconcile with him.

Meditation Park reaches a critical point when Maria sees Bing walking into a building with a much younger woman. Once again, she remains silent in the face of such an unintended  provocation.

Maria swallows her anger by joining a group of Chinese women who, illegally, direct motorists to sparking spaces for payment. There she meets Gabriel (Don McKellar), their chief competitor. McKellar’s role is minor and inconsequential.

Tzi Ma plays a cheating husband

As the film moves forward, Maria meets Dylan, Charlie’s finance, and Bing’s mistress, who annoyingly asks why she’s following her. In short order, the other woman apologizes and Bing falls into a depressive mood and begs Maria for forgiveness. Playing the role of the dominant spouse in their marriage for the first time, Maria stands up to Bing to signal her freedom and independence.

Cheng Pei Pei, conveying alternatively glum and happy moods, portrays Maria with panache. As Bing, Tzi Ma is suitably glowering and authoritative. Sandra Oh is convincing as a dutiful daughter.

Meditation Park is a small and unassuming film, but it punches above its weight.





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