★ ★ ★ ☆
Mina Shum’s “Meditation Park” takes place within a few blocks in East Vancouver but tells an emotional and universal story of the immigrant experience in Canada.
Cheng Pei Pei is Maria, the wife of workaholic Bing (Tzi Ma). A stay-at-home wife and mother, she doesn’t feel confident with her grasp of English and is dependent on Bing for almost everything. When she discovers he is having an affair with a much younger woman and is planning a trip to Japan she, along with the help of her family and neighbours, she asserts her independence and comes out from underneath her overbearing husband’s shadow. “First we obey our fathers,” her friend says. “Then our husbands. When they are gone we obey ourselves.”
“Meditation Park” sees Maria break free of the conservative constraints of her upbringing and family life to assimilate into the wider community. The story of her personal journey is told with a mix of comedy—occasionally bordering on slapstick— and heartfelt emotion but it is the performances, particularly from Cheng Pei Pei, that breathes life into the movie. Her broken heart is palpable but so is the joy on her face as she dances to music only she can hear at a block party.
Strong supporting work from Sandra Oh and Don McKellar highlights the strong support system that helps prop Maria up in her time of need but it is the personal story of awakening that lingers.
3 ½ STARS