Directed by: #LeanneBailham
Written by: #BarbaraVonau, #CatWatson, #LeanneBailham
Starring: #MiaFoo, #MichelleWenLee
Short Film Review by: Emily Davison
Although Mei has kept her depression a secret from her conservative mother, she has always tried to meet her mother’s high expectations, even after dropping out of university after the second year. However, after overhearing her on the phone, Mei is heartbroken and struggles to keep her depression a secret for the sake of their relationship.
Mei (2022) is a ten minute independent short drama, directed, co-written and produced by British filmmaker Leanne Bailham and follows young British-born Chinese Mixed Race Mei, who tries to find the courage to open up to her mother about her mental health struggles. The film is an excellent showcase of talent across the board and excels at raising awareness regarding the important and increasingly relevant social issue of mental health, especially in relation to the lesser represented Asian population.
Bailham exhibits tender direction through thought provoking, revealing imagery and trusting in her performers to communicate through their body language and facial expressions. The classic ‘show, don’t tell’ rule is utilised effectively throughout, with the opening scene carefully presenting the touching subject of the short flawlessly. We are introduced to Mei (Foo) and her reflection in a mirror as she desperately tries to appear composed and happy for her mother, the image of the mirror signalling the external pressure and entrapment she feels from her mother’s overbearing expectations of her. The visual representation of Mei’s depression is stunning, with a later usage of heavy red and blue lighting on Mei as she curls into a ball on the floor in tears, quick cuts highlighting her self harm as she scratches at her arms and the sounds of distorted voice overs demonstrate her intense negative thought cycle she cannot escape from.
Along with excellent direction comes a stellar performance from our lead, Mia Foo, who manages to convey much heartbreak without a single word of dialogue spoken. Her visual communication easily envelops us into her the immense internal struggle, stress and pressure she experiences and a moving acoustic score by Nicola Chang compliments the emotional weight of the short perfectly. It is cathartic to see that Jia-Ying (Lee) does care deeply for her daughter’s well-being and happiness, despite her tough exterior, providing silent support and understanding through subtle gestures.
Mei will certainly be relatable to many, not just those who have also experienced or are experiencing mental health issues, but anyone who knows what overwhelming pressure from family, friends and societal expectations can feel like. This short displays a moving exploration of how depression can affect individuals and their families and is a must see, not only for its relevant subject matter, but also for a fabulous lead performance and thoughtful direction.