Review: ‘Confetti’

Director Ann Hu’s Own Poignant Experience Informs A Deluge Of Real-life Challenges Faced By Those With Special Needs

Confetti is written, produced, and directed by award-winning New York resident, filmmaker Ann Hu (Shadow Magic, Beauty Remains) and is based on her own personal experiences. She sheds light on the struggles often faced by so many immigrant families who come to America for the opportunity at a better life. Her film tells the story of a mother and daughter duo who possess a gift that requires out of the norm learning methods. These methods are necessary to better navigate through a functional existence and toward a better future.

Lan (Zhu Zhu, Cloud Atlas, Marco Polo) is a young mother who’s been keeping a secret from her family. A secret she thought she could keep buried forever. When Lan’s daughter starts school, she quickly realizes that she and her child, Meimei (introducing Harmonie He), have something deeply in common. The school Meimei attends feels that she does not match the standardized equivalency of education and is asked to be removed. Faced with minimal alternatives to proper education for a condition highly under-recognized in her country, Lan must decide how far she will go to reverse her child’s fate.

Inflicted with the learning disability, Dyslexia, Meimei is considered an outcast in her school and community. What no one understands, including her unknowing mother, is that she possesses a learning curiosity waiting to be unlocked and explored. The world seen through her adolescent eyes is uniquely filled with her brains interpretation of rich colors and shapes. Lan will stop at nothing to help Meimei even if that means leaving her life in China behind. Lan and Meimei get word that the states may offer the help they need. Together they venture from their small, rural town in China to the busy American lifestyle of New York City.

Lan speaks no English however, MeiMei speaks well enough to translate for her mother. They bravely take on their adventure and soon find themselves in a place they know nothing about. The finally reach the home of a woman who reluctantly provides temporary housing. Helen (Amy Irving, Crossing Delancy, Yentl) is a wheelchair-bound, outspoken writer who has her own demons to contend with. Over time, their relationship and respect for each other grows as the journey for Meimei’s education ensues.

Navigating schools for a recent immigrant with special needs presents a roller-coaster of challenges. Lan’s under-the-table, low-wage sewing factory job and visiting immigrant status endanger Meimei’s acceptance at a special school. To her dissatisfaction, Lan realizes that in a world where people are judged, they too are often left to fend for themselves. That nugget of knowledge, along with everything else, takes a toll on her mental health. Her courage to believe, against all odds, will eventually lead them to people who do see them for who they truly are. Despite all the roadblocks and an over 2 year waiting list, Lan is determined to get Meimei into the school she’s meant to be in. 

Lan turns to Dr. Wurmer (Helen Slater, Supergirl) who is responsible for the admissions into the special needs school MeiMei requires. Already bombarded with parents who want to bypass the waiting list, Dr. Wurmer is unemotionally set on following the rules. Lan, with the help of Helen, devises a plan to hear Meimei’s story and both are determined to see it through. Regardless of how much time it takes.

Confetti features heartwarming performances of a mother’s love by Zhu Zhu, a steely and strong-willed turn by Amy Irving, and a delightful debut from the young and talented, Harmonie He. Their tiny bubble is impacted by the numerous people who come into their lives and affect their journey along the way. The film reveals dejected insight to Ann Hu’s own poignant experience and portrays a deluge of real-life challenges. Hope, heart, and determination help make sense of a confusing world and their place in it.  Meimei suffers from Dyslexia, as do 1 in 10 people worldwide. There’s a genuine fight to stop the demeaning categorization of special needs individuals. Proper and affordable education are a real struggle for these people. Ann Hu’s tale is an eye opening reality that tugs at your heartstrings and is definitely worth a watch.

Confetti will be available in theaters now.