‘Sunset Sunrise’ is a story about Lily, a traditional Chinese mother who struggles to come to terms with her son’s sexuality.
This short film won the Jury Award at the 2019 USC Asian Pacific Film Festival and was an official selection for different film festivals such as the 2019 Asians on Film Festival of Shorts, the 2019 Seattle Asian American Film Festival, the 2019 AFMA Film Festival of Young Cinema, the 2018 Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, the 2018 Taiwanese American Film Festival, and the 2018 Chinese American Film Festival.
If you want to know more about this critically-acclaimed 12-minute short film, keep on reading. Trigger warning though, this movie deals with the topic of suicide and internalized homophobia.
‘Sunset Sunrise’ starts with Lily (Eon Song) and her son, Bao (Todd Lien) making dumplings as they engage in small talk about Bao. Lily comments that he must have a girl now seeing that she heard him talking to one the other day. Bao denies it and tells her she was just a friend. Lily then praises Bao’s dumplings, saying his creations look better than the ones she made. Bao tells her it’s because he has a good teacher, referring to Lily. Lily then confirms that school should be his priority, he has tests coming up after all. Bao confidently says that she should have faith in her because he has never let her down. The conversation ends and Bao is asked to fetch water.
Later that day, Lily knocks and enters Bao’s room bringing him his newly folded clothes. Bao, who’s in the bathroom lets her go in. While putting the clean clothes in Bao’s dresser, Lily comes across a gay adult magazine which she picks up and opens. Bao enters the room to a stupefied Lily who asks her why he has something like that. Bao is horrified and denies it’s his and tells him it’s his friend Andrew’s, he just left it in his room. Lily asks if they read such stuff which leads to Bao rambling, saying they were just messing around. Lily wordlessly exits the room, shocked and confused, leaving a worried Bao.
The two share an equally awkward meal for dinner after the incident with Bao intently watching his mother who is quietly eating and refusing to meet his eyes.
Afterward, we see Lily in the hospital, having begged Doctor Lin to cure Bao repeatedly but was turned down. The doctor adamantly told her that homosexuality is not a disease. Lily pulled him aside and told him that Bao once told her he liked a girl in school before, so she just wants him to be normal like everybody else. The doctor then referred her to counselors for parents of gay children much to Lily’s dismay.
Lily ends up opening up to a co-worker, asking if it’s her fault that he turned up gay since he grew up with a single mother. The friend tells her to stop blaming herself and to not trust doctors since she knew someone who had cancer ended up living beyond what the doctor told him because he had incense ashes from the temple mixed into his water. Buddha’s blessing, she calls it. The friend then advised her to take a pinch of incense ash and mix it with Bao’s water which she assures will cure him of his homosexuality.
Lily follows her friend’s advice and has Bao drink the water mixed with ashes under the guise of Chinese medicine from a friend. Bao ends up spitting out the drink, coughing from the taste of it. Lily concedes and tells him it’s okay not to finish the entire thing.