Length: 129 minutes
Director: Jia Ling
Cast: Jia Ling, Zhang Xiaofei, Shen Teng, Chen He
Language: Mandarin with English and Chinese subtitles
Release date: 1 April 2021 (Singapore)
Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Directed by and starring comedian-actress Jia Ling, Hi, Mom is based on the stories of Jia Ling’s mother Li Huanying, who was fatally injured in a car accident in 2001. The movie adds a time travel spin to the stories, where Jia Xiaoling (Jia Ling) is suddenly transported back to 1981 and meets her young mother Li Huanying (Zhang Xiaofei). Through a series of events, the two become best friends, while Xiaoling does whatever she can to nudge her mother’s life onto the “right path”.
Hi, Mom was released in China as a Chinese New Year film. But honestly, it is more suitable as a Mother’s Day film due to its themes of familial love and filial piety. Making it different from other Chinese New Year films is the fact that it not only has the comedic element, but is also a tear-jerker. If there is a message to take home from the movie, it would be that cliched yet very true line: there is nothing greater than a mother’s (or a parent’s) love.
Hi, Mom is a rather patriotic film: a scene about China winning the 1981 Volleyball Women’s World Cup seems rather purposefully included. It feels as though, in order to weave this part of the story in, the plot progresses in such a way that Huanying and Xiaoling will later participate in a volleyball match that feels like the climax of the movie. But of course, this part is only a little snippet, making the whole plot a little less coherent.
Thankfully, the story gets better from there and the ending packs a twist to it. Looking at how the movie opens, I had a hunch that it would be a touching one. But the water works did not kick in until the surprise ending revealed everything. It was a long wait, but it was worthwhile. It is no wonder that Hi, Mom is currently the highest grossing film this year, and the second-highest grossing non-English film of all time. These are global figures, mind you – of course, it's still early in the year and other upcoming blockbusters might break that record.
Despite this being Jia Ling’s directorial debut, it is on par with the work of an experienced director and surpasses other directorial debuts, such as Vincent Zhao’s Counterattack. Jia Ling has been active as a comedian and an actress, but perhaps in time to come, we will see her rise in profile as a director.
Hi, Mom provides a good dosage of laughter and tears, while reflecting the love of a mother. The plot may not be entirely well executed, but it is still worth a watch.