REVIEW: ‘Turning Red’ Captures a Relatable Mother-Daughter Relationship

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Turning Red - But Why Tho

When it comes to Disney and Pixar’s line-up there aren’t too many coming-of-age storiesTurning Red changes this by telling a story about a teenage girl finally ready to step out of her mother’s expectations and set her own path –within reason of course. Directed by Turning Red features a screenplay from Shi and .

Turning Red is all centered around Meilin Lee (Rosalie Chiang), a confident, dorky 13-year-old with a huge love of a boyband groing up in the 1990s. But while she gets to be herself around her friends, singing and dancing along to her favorite songs and being an absolutely chaotic version of herself she can only show them, she’s constantly reminded of the expectations she has to meet. While she isn’t necessarily the dutiful daughter in her personal time, drawing pictures of her crush and thinking up hustles with her friends, her mom’s specter remains clear. At school, she’s Mei. At home, she’s Mei Mei, the perfect respectful child fulfilling every goal set by her mom.

Her mom Ming (Sandra Oh) is protective and overbearing, showing up to school and causing scenes without letting Mei explain anything. It’s all embarrassing but she’s still family. Stuck between hiding who she is in front of her family and hiding parts of her family from her classmates, it’s all made more difficult when she begins turning into a red panda whenever she feels any emotion too intensely.

While Mei’s changing body is immediately assumed to be her first period from her mother, it also serves as the crucial storytelling element that allows us to explore the expectations that come with becoming a woman. Instead of being told to embrace her panda, she’s told to push it all away. But this doesn’t just mean to stop transforming, it means to stop being angry, stop being excited, stop feeling so intensely that you can’t hide it.

As a message, being instructed to be a good daughter and being taught to be a good woman through controlling your emotions hits hard. For me, my mom had many conversations on lowering my voice, changing the words I used, and always ensuring I didn’t let anyone know how angry I was even if I was being wronged. I was taught to take every single emotion and burry it deep, deep down until I could handle it away from people seeing me.

While this was because I was a girl, it was doubly necessary because I was brown. I needed to treat every emotion like it was bad to save myself from discrimination. And for Ming, that’s what she’s trying to show her daughter too, even if it’s hurting her unintentionally. Turning Red captures this beautifully and in the mother-daughter moments, the film shines. You can feel the authenticity in the conversations, the love, the vulnerability, and the defiance too.

Mei is trying to do what her mother wants, and Ming is just trying to protect her daughter even if it means repeating her own mother’s mistakes. Like EncantoTurning Red is about the way our parents love us, and how they hurt us too. Mei’s journey in Turning Red is a little about getting to go see her favorite boyband live and coming to terms with her panda-self and a lot about standing up to her mom. It’s not about shunning her mom or the expectations, it’s about asserting herself and ultimately hoping her mother will adjust. What begins as a “please” ends with a “accept this”.

Turning Red is powerful narratively and features a stunning voice cast that works perfectly with the animation. It’s emotive, heartfelt, and has just the right amount of conflict to make it shine. On top of that, it captures the 1990s perfectly. From the clothing to the pocket pets and the boybands, it all works. But more importantly, every moment feels significant and packed with love. Whether it’s the familial notes or the takeaway that sometimes your friends have just as important a part to play in your life as the people who raised you, it all sings.

Overall, Turning Red is straightforward and it captures very specific family pressures passed down from moms to their daughters perfectly. To be honest, it’s one I really want to watch with my mom and talk with her about it after.

Turning Red is streaming exclusively on Disney+ March 11, 2022.


Turning Red
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Overall, Turning Red is straightforward and it captures very specific family pressures passed down from moms to their daughters perfectly. To be honest, it’s one I really want to watch with my mom and talk with her about it after.