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Having seduced audiences with the sassy humor of Female Directors, Yang Mingming confirms her wickedly original talent with her first feature, which premiered at the Berlinale. Starring as Wu, a writer in her late twenties, she enters the film on a sunny afternoon, elegantly yet playfully riding a scooter through the maze of Beijing hutongs—narrow alleys crammed with lower-class courtyard houses. Wu exudes an engaging physical freedom, gliding on her two wheels, dancing in closed spaces, and crisscrossing through the capital’s contradictory cityscape. She also glides over the equally winding paths of her ambivalent relationship with her mother (fantastically embodied by the producer/actor Nai An, who also plays the mother in Ying Liang’s A Family Tour). The two women bicker, take care of a grandfather who has not yet written his will, and argue about how to deal with useless, pompous, cowardly, or “disgusting” men.
Yang’s critical gaze spares nothing and nobody: the elderly, waitresses, saleswomen, irate security guards, divorced middle-aged intellectuals, college professors who seek younger partners, and even motherly love, “the only debt that can’t be repaid.” She brilliantly captures the frightening speed at which the “good mother” turns into a monster, the daughter into an insensitive brat, and love into hate. As in a Jean Rhys novel, she peels off the layers of female subjectivity to reveal a dark truth at its core. Description adapted from Bérénice Reynaud. (Dir.: Yang Mingming, China, 2018, 117 min., DCP, Mandarin with English subtitles)
Born in Beijing in 1987, Yang Mingming grew up in a hutong with her mother. After pursuing an early passion for dance and theater, she majored in film and television directing at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts. She directed, photographed, and acted in the featurette Female Directors (Nü daoyan, COB 2014) and edited Yang Chao’s Crosscurrent (Chang jiang tu, COB 2016). Girls Always Happy is her debut feature. She currently lives alone with two elephant dolls and calls herself “Elephant” in English.