Sorry for the Inconvenience

By Jane Chow | Drama
A lonely girl helps her parents keep the restaurant afloat amid Covid.

Sammi is a lonely teenager. And in the middle of the pandemic, she's even more isolated than ever, even as she tries to help her parents keep their seafood restaurant in Los Angeles's Chinatown afloat by chopping veggies to packing up takeout orders.

But even in the middle of a difficult world event, Sammi is still a typical teenager, studying for her driver's permit and prepping for her high school theater production of "The Tempest," now on Zoom. But just as she's set for adulthood, she finds herself pulled even tighter into the family fold as the restaurant continues to struggle.

Written and directed by Jane Chow, this gentle, warmhearted short drama has its wryly ironic moments, drawn from its keen observations of life during the pandemic. But its great charm comes from its knowledge that, even during a difficult pandemic, teenagers still grapple with their identities, navigating the push-pull between the excitement of adulthood with the comfort and safety of home.

The tenor of the film is on the quieter side, echoed in the interplay of soft, hazy lighting with softly muted yet vivid colors. Fans of Sofia Coppola will find much to like here, especially in the film's dreamy, observational quality, which luxuriates in small, seemingly off-hand moments that reveal a subtle charm and poeticism with careful attention.

But above all, the storytelling is anchored in the experience of its main character. As Sammi, actor Caitlin Cheung is charmingly natural and understated as a thoughtful, smart young woman balancing her commitment to family with her burgeoning interests and independent concerns. The writing slowly and almost unobtrusively builds up a crisis point for the family, and Sammi -- like so many others during the pandemic -- must make certain sacrifices to keep things afloat. These sacrifices are chronicled matter-of-factly, but they are no less sad or wistful.

Graceful, humble and luminous in its voice and craft, "Sorry for the Inconvenience" succeeds both as a snapshot of the contemporary moment -- Zoom theater productions, masks and contactless food delivery all feature in the film -- and as a timeless portrait of a young teen yearning for a bigger, wider horizon, just as those horizons narrow in an unprecedented way. But like many others during the Covid-19 pandemic, Sammi finds comfort in the warmth and sturdiness of familial bonds, leading the film into its affecting, sweet ending. Even when nothing is quite going right -- in her life, and the world -- there is still beauty to behold, adventures to embark upon and the promise of fairer seas ahead, hopefully soon.




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