On a projected board, an illustrated clapboard with the word ‘actor’ written is shown next to a fountain of coins falling from a ripped money bag. At the polar end, there is a ‘proper degree list’ with your stereotypical Asian parent fan-favourite career paths: doctor, lawyer, business and economics. Hui Yi is sat in front of the board and has broken the mould. How? She is pursuing an acting career in Melbourne 6000km away from her family in 落叶归根 (Luò yè guī gēn) Getting Home.
落叶归根 (Luò yè guī gēn) Getting Home is a one-woman show created by Cheryl Ho (writer and performer) and Rachel Lee (designer and producer). Originally written as a live theatre piece, 落叶归根 (Luò yè guī gēn) Getting Home was adapted as a film due to Melbourne’s lockdown restrictions. The piece fluidly explores the prevalent inner turmoil of Hui Yi, an ‘average Chinese-Singaporean girl in her mid-twenties’ torn between her creative ambitions and her sense of duty towards her family back home in Singapore.
It’s a heartfelt piece, to say the least, it’s bursting at the seams with both comedy and tragedy. At one moment we experience the frustrations of acting self-tapes, at others we snap back into reality with voicemails of concerned family members. Balancing this tightrope is no joke, and the film captures the explorative nature of being in your twenties – a time for experimentation, but also one where the pressure of proving yourself to your family and establishing your own identity can begin to weigh on you overtime.
In Hui Yi’s words “with visas expiring, potential death, the climate crisis, forest fires, revolutions, pandemics” the world is unhinged, and navigating it can be really difficult. The flurry of chaos is expressed in Cheryl Ho’s writing, where questions are asked to the audience – what is a legacy? How can we shift the trajectory our own life’s narrative, and begin our own legacy, if we are tied to family expectations?
Anchoring the piece are sections of animation, animated by Brooke Lee, that has an omniscient narrator using a broad metaphor of a seed for purpose, life, and family. The overall effect of this animated sequence is atmospheric, the sound design created by Artwave Studio, Ng Sze Min and Zai’en Pan is ambient and magnetic to the point where it feels as if you are being suspended mid-air.
As Hui Yi’s story gets more complex, the animated sequence adapts to it and grows more specific. It starts off with a story of a single seed creating universes and planets, to discussions on parents moving and taking on multiple jobs just to give their child a chance. Perhaps, the most poignant moment is one of self-reflection where this omniscient narrator merges with Hui Yi’s consciousness and story “You’re one shoot in this tree of life trying to ensure survival, but you grow in your selfishness and you find ways to get away”.
At a crossroads most people would decide between pursuing their dreams or staying with their family – 落叶归根 (Luò yè guī gēn) Getting Home navigates the consequence of choosing one over the other, and comes to a satisfying conclusion that demonstrates you can do both with some life lessons learned along the way.