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Acceptance is hard to come by in “My Boyfriend’s Daughter”

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Directed by Kathy Meng, “My Boyfriend’s Daughter” is a short film that follows Essie (Claire Hsu), a young Asian American woman engaged in a relationship with the significantly older Karl (Guy Ventoliere). However, despite dating him for so long, Essie is unable to get Karl to introduce her to his daughter, Sis (Grace Vensel), and is forced to leave every time she comes home. Feeling upset at being left out of Karl’s family, she sets out to meet his daughter in some rather unconventional and stalkerish ways. 

“My Boyfriend’s Daughter” does a good job of setting up a complicated life situation. The various characters in this film each have their own vested interests that affect each other in interesting ways. Essie is extremely successful, even more so than Karl. With Essie, the issue is acceptance and wanting to be seen as a serious partner in her relationship. Every time Karl refuses to introduce her to his daughter, she can’t help but feel like less of a girlfriend and more of a hookup. Her need to be accepted into Karl’s family is understandable, but it does cause her to go to uncomfortable lengths. 

Compare that to Sis, who is at a different point in her womanhood. She is seemingly entering a more mature phase of her life such as pursuing a sexual relationship with her boyfriend. Essie’s attempts at making herself known to Sis cause her to question Karl’s disjointed love life. Through her Dad’s denial of Essie as a partner, Sis starts to question her own relationship without a proper example to compare to. The different ways these characters’ choices trickle down and affect each other’s lives showcases the thought that went into the set-up of the film.

Essie and Karl.

But despite the well-written characters of Essie and Sis, Karl definitely stands out as a character who was not explored enough. His intentions or reasons for his actions aren’t investigated and the result was his character feeling one-dimensional, especially juxtaposed to Essie and Sis. Even though the film is primarily focused on Essie’s feelings and her futile attempts to connect to Sis, not touching upon Karl feels like a missed opportunity to make a more nuanced film.

This lack of exploration of Karl’s character essentially emphasizes the film’s biggest weakness which is that it ends before any major revelations can occur. While we see the different sides of the characters’ motivations, we never see them attempt to resolve these issues with each other. At the same time, the film doesn’t spend enough time with one character long enough to make the short film feel like a strong enough character study. While “My Boyfriend’s Daughter” does a good job of introducing the complicated themes that result from a unique situation, it leaves the viewer feeling empty–and ultimately wanting more. 

Essie attempting to meet Sis.

Film pages: IMDb | Queensworld Film Festival

Film stills by cinematographer Sancheev Ravichandran.

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