Meditation Park is a lovely film from director Mina Shum, who also wrote the film. It’s about an older woman who learns to stand up for herself after two crises hit at the same time.
Pei-Pei Cheng plays Maria. She’s 60 years old, an immigrant in Canada who came from Hong Kong with her husband Bing (Tzi Ma). She learned English, but never worked or made many friends. Instead she took care of Bing in the traditional Chinese way.
She learns Bing is having an affair with a younger woman. It shakes up her entire world and changes her forever. At about the same time, her daughter Ava (Sandra Oh), Ava’s husband Jonathan (Zak Santiago) and their two kids are there for dinner. Ava tells her mother she has an invitation to her brother Charlie’s wedding. Charlie wants his mother to come.
Bing has not spoken to his son Charlie in 10 years because Charlie made him lose face. By extension, that means Maria has not seen her son for 10 years either. Ava wants her mother to go to Charlie’s wedding. Maria at first says it’s out of the question.
But the more she learns about what Bing has been up to, the less inclined she is to miss her son’s wedding simply because Bing isn’t speaking to him.
Maria stages a quiet revolt. Maria says, “I can do more,” each time she stretches her wings.
Maria befriends her neighbors. They earn money by selling parking in their yards during hockey games and concerts. She starts doing the same. Gabriel (Don McKellar), Anita (Lillian Lim), Su (Sharmaine Yeoh), and May (Alannah Ong) learn to work together and take turns snagging cars in need of parking. Gabriel has a dying wife, and he feels safe telling Maria about his problems.
She earns enough money to pay for her own adventure in traveling to Charlie’s wedding.
There are some beautiful family scenes when both Maria and Ava stand up to the patriarchal attitudes Bing brings to the family.
The supporting characters and plots were well thought out and added to Maria’s journey. The acting was wonderful. Especially Pei-Pei Cheng, who was delightful in this part. She was the perfect blend of hesitant at overturning years of customs and bold at taking action when she made up her mind to do it.
There are three generations of Chinese immigrants in this story.The 3rd generation, Ava’s son Max (William Budijanto), struggles to hang on to his Chinese roots and learn to speak Chinese, while Maria struggles to throw off some of the shackles of her roots and become an independent, modern woman. Ava, as she comments herself, is always in the middle. In the middle between her brother and her mother, but also in the middle of the generational shifts in this immigrant family.
Meditation Park is in English and Cantonese. It’s now available on Netflix. It’s a beautiful movie. I heartily recommend it.