‘Turning Red’ Review

Kayla Cheng, Staff Writer

Turning Red” features a young 13-year-old girl named Meilin Lee. Meilin Lee is a young, quirky, and bright girl who feels she can rule the world. In many ways, Meilin Lee is your average teenage girl. She fangirls over bands and celebrities and has a group of friends she tells everything to.

The movie takes place in 2002 in Toronto, where her family owns a temple that many tourists and local residents visit. At the temple, Meilin has various jobs to help her mom: sweeping, leading tours, and even dressing up in a red panda costume to represent her ancestors’ wish of turning into a red panda to protect her children. The movie beautifully captures Meilin Lee’s struggle while trying to please her mother and navigate her own path in life. Meilin often struggles to find a balance between what feels like the different sides of her life. She often can’t hang out very long with her friends because of the other duties assigned to her by her mother. However, this all changes when Meilin wakes up one day and is a gigantic red panda. Meilin quickly tries to run and hide to fix her red panda issue, but regardless of what she tries, nothing can revert her to human form. She later finds out that her emotions trigger the release of the red panda. Meilin, her friends and her family all have different approaches regarding the red panda. Some see it as an incredible and fun new aspect of Meilin, while others see it as a danger to Meilin and others. 

“Turning Red” makes a fairly decent attempt at illustrating all the characters as well-rounded individuals. In most movies, there is a clear villain and a clear hero; however, in “Turning Red,” there is no hero, and there is no villain. Instead, there are those we may perceive as overbearing and possessive, but in reality, they are loving and caring. These characters who may appear “villainous” are three-dimensional characters who each have their fears and insecurities that are not so easily seen when they aren’t the movie’s main character. An example of one of these characters would be Meilin’s mother; she embarrasses her daughter multiple times without much regard for her daughters’ reputation and seems to be a very controlling mother. While some of this may be true, there is much more behind Meilin’s mother. Meilin discovers that she and her mother have more in common than she thought. The creator Domee Shi (a Chinese-Canadian director), does an excellent job of demonstrating the generational and perspective differences between mother and daughter that can be found in ethnic families while also incorporating tiny elements of Chinese culture. If you’re looking for a beautiful and amazing animated movie, I recommend watching “Turning Red.”