Coming Home Again Drama

Food for the Soul: A TIFF Review of ‘Coming Home Again’

September 21, 2019Ben MK

In The Joy Luck Club, director Wayne Wang told a story involving food and family centering on three generations of Asian American women. Now, 27 years later, Wang is back with Coming Home Again, another tender tale about culinary preparation, familial relationships and the Asian American experience — this time focusing on the bond between a son and his ailing mother.

Based on the autobiographical 1995 New Yorker essay by Lee Chang-rae, the film follows Chang-rae (Justin Chon), a young professional who leaves behind his job in New York City to return to San Francisco so that he can care for his mother (Jackie Chung), who has just undergone chemotherapy to treat her stomach cancer. Deciding that the best way to honor her is to prepare a meal consisting of traditional Korean dishes — prepared exactly the way she used to make them — he sets about precisely following her recipes, even involving his visiting sister (Christina July Kim) in the process. As he marinades the meat and chops the vegetables, however, it stirs up old memories and bittersweet emotions, all of which come to a head when the family gathers to partake in the fruits of his efforts.

If you're one who prefers their movie-watching experience to mirror the instant gratification of ordering from a fast food take-out window, the result may not be for you. More akin to spending a Sunday afternoon at home preparing a meal from scratch, Coming Home Again won't suit everyone's tastes. But for those who don't mind its abstract narrative and meandering pace, this is a family drama that's certainly worth savoring.

Coming Home Again makes its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 26 min.

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