The Harsh Truth is Unveiled in ‘Paper Wrap Fire’

Paper Wrap Fire

A Chinese teenager is left alone in a community center where encounters a handsome man who sparks his interest which then leads to a groundbreaking discovery that shatters his innocence and changes his life.

Paper Wrap Fire

Paper Wrap Fire’ introduces us to Vincent (Alestair Shu), a Chinese teenager who is constantly getting picked on by his peers. He gets called a “big fag” by the other boys as he gets knocked down to the ground and is photographed by them getting bullied.

His mother, Lisa (Rachel Lu), witnesses the bullying and quickly shoos the bullies away. Lisa wipes him down and complains that Vincent always lets them get away with picking on him. She calls him a wimp for not fighting back but Vincent replies that he tried but it is no use. Yeah, try going against three bullies.

Lisa tells Vincent that that is why he must study hard so he can get them out of the dumpster they are living in right now. She orders Vincent to stay at home in order to stay out of more trouble. 

The two head back home with the groceries Lisa bought prior to seeing Vincent’s incident. However, as they go up to their apartment unit, they hear two men banging on their door demanding Lisa to pay up her loan. The two quietly descend the stairwell and make their escape out of the building. 

Outside, Lisa calls her friend Jenny to ask if Vincent could stay in her place for a few hours. Vincent counters that he doesn’t need anybody and that he can be on his own but Lisa doesn’t listen to him. Lisa crosses the road, but Vincent does not budge. There seems to be a gap between the two of them. On the phone, Jenny seems to have declined Lisa’s request to have her son stay with her for a while. Lisa curses her and looks at where Vincent is from the other side of the road. She beckons him to come over.

Lisa has decided to head over to the community center. She instructs Vincent to wait there until after she finishes work. He asks why he couldn’t go with her to work and tells her she’s annoying. Lisa chides him for it and asks him to apologize. Vincent refuses. Lisa huffs before attempting to give Vincent some money. Vincent doesn’t take it though which only frustrates Lisa even further before eventually leaving him.

Paper Wrap Fire

Moments pass in boredom for Vincent which ends up with him attempting to play table tennis alone. The ping pong ball almost hits a handsome nurse (Shing Ka) who only looks at him disappointedly and moves on to pushing the wheelchair of an elderly he seems to be providing care for. Vincent observes the nurse as he instructs the elderly, Mrs. Yu, to wait for her daughter who will be picking her up. He then passes by Vincent to turn on the speaker, filling the room with classic music. The nurse then asks Mrs. Yu and Vincent if they like the music. Vincent replies no. The nurse then asks him to not turn it to hip-hop which makes Vincent laugh. He seems to find the nurse amusing and interesting.

The nurse promptly exits the center. Just as he had left though, Vincent notices an ID on the ground, picks it up, and identifies the nurse as Kar Fai Chen, a health technician. Vincent hurries outside and follows Chen around the city unbeknownst to the nurse. Eventually, Chen ends up going inside a massage parlor and talking to an attendant. Vincent waits outside and sees the said attendant leave the shop which he takes as a sign to finally go inside.

Inside, Vincent sees rooms covered with curtains and separated by wall dividers. Vincent manages to peek in between a gap and sees a man (presumably Chen) getting a body massage. He observes what’s happening inside for a while before deeming it uninteresting and starts to move to a different room when he hears a soft moan. Vincent then climbs on a stool and proceeds to take a look at the scenario from above the divider. The scene that unfolds in front of him surprises him as the man is getting sexually pleasured by a woman. But nothing could have prepared him for the woman suddenly turning around and then seeing his own mother, Lisa, staring back at him.

Lisa panicky calls for him as Vincent dashes outside and away from the shop. Vincent ends up going back to the community center where he takes out Chen’s ID, angrily tears it to pieces, and steps on it repeatedly.

A few moments later, Lisa appears at the center where a pensive Vincent is looking at the bustling city from the window. Vincent sees her and Lisa throws her an embarrassed look before moving to leave, signaling that they are finally about to go home.

The two move upstairs once again in a wordless manner. When they reach the door to their apartment, they see it vandalized with spray paint that said “Pay up, whore.” Unable to control her emotions, Lisa starts breaking into fitful sobs before finally crumpling to the floor. Vincent joins her. Lisa places a hand on his arm. Vincent puts his hand on top of hers as an act of comfort and consolation. Lisa continues to cry on his shoulder as they sit there on the stairwell, seeing each other eye-to-eye for the first time.  

 

Writer’s thoughts:

‘Paper Wrap Fire’ is an emotional and heart-tugging short film that rightfully received praises, has been shown to multiple film festivals, and has won the Granny Award at the New Hampshire Film Festival in 2014 as well as a best actress nod for Rachel Lu’s incredible and emotional portrayal of a single mother struggling to make a living for her teenage son. 

The title of the short film is presumably from the Chinese proverb “paper cannot wrap fire” which meant “one cannot deny the truth” which in this case happened when Lisa’s secret was eventually revealed to her own son through his fascination with a handsome stranger. 

All in all, it was worth watching and this writer would recommend BLTai readers to give it a shot.

Watch ‘Paper Wrap Fire’ on GagaOOLala.

 

 

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