dir. Sasie Sealy, 2019
NR, 87 min, USA, in English, Mandarin and Cantonese with English subtitles
In the heart of Chinatown, New York, ornery, chain-smoking, newly widowed 80-year–old Grandma (Tsai Chin) is eager to live life as an independent woman, despite the worry of her family. When a local fortune teller predicts a most auspicious day in her future, Grandma decides to head to the casino and goes all in, only to land herself on the wrong side of luck…and suddenly attracting the attention of some Chinese gangsters. Desperate to protect herself, Grandma employs the services of a bodyguard from a rival gang and soon finds herself right in the middle of a Chinatown gang war.
Director Sasie Sealy brings to life a dark comedy about immigrant life, the vulnerabilities of aging and an unexpected friendship. Set in alleyways underground mahjong parlors with a cast of richly drawn characters (including Taiwanese movie star Corey Ha) Lucky Grandma is a love letter to Chinatown and an homage to all the badass elderly women who inhabit it.
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“Lucky Grandma rests almost wholly on the withering glances of Tsai Chin. Throughout co-writer and director Sasie Sealy’s feature debut, Chin, now 86, stares down everyone — from adorable grandson to threatening Chinatown gangster – with a look that says: Whatever I’m about to say or do, I’ve earned it. Oftentimes the glowering Chin, cigarette dangling, stares down the camera, i.e., the audience. You wonder if the camera is going to flinch.” —Chicago Tribune