Sean Wang’s “Didi” is an impressive and intimate visual diary of teen life in the early 2000s.
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“Didi” Plot Summary
Sean Wang’s first feature-length film, “Didi,” conveys a strong and intimate understanding of growing up in the early 2000s. The coming-of-age story premiered at Sundance with a confidence rarely seen in first-time filmmakers. From the opening credits’ freeze-frame to the use of 2000s’ handheld cameras and social media, Wang’s “Didi” is a personal story, a funny story, and one where any millennial can easily see themselves.
“Didi” is named after its title character, Chris Wang (Izaac Wang), a 13-year-old boy who spends his summer recording his friends pulling pranks and counting down the days his sister leaves for college. His family calls him Didi. While Chris primarily speaks Mandarin at home and his mom (Joan Chen) immerses their house in Chinese culture, Chris is more interested in Myspace, Youtube, and skating.
As Chris is about to start high school, he attempts to create a new identity for himself and questions the relationships he has. He develops a budding romance with Madi (Mahaela Park), tries to join a new gang of skaters, and starts seeing his mom and sister (Shirley Chen) as people rather than as annoying family members. But Chris’ new experiences come at the cost of anger, hurt, and plenty of awkwardness that put all of his relationships at risk.
For anyone who went through puberty (I’m looking at you), “Didi” can be a cringe-inducing watch, putting you right back in the shoes of your cracked voice and pimply self. The language can be crude and the antics can be juvenile, but Wang doesn’t shy away from the ugliness or immaturity that stems from these experiences. He understands they’re part of the journey. At 90 minutes, “Didi” can meander and feel like it’s searching for a straight-forward plot, but it also represents its protagonist in that way. Ultimately, “Didi” stays true to the uncertainty in oneself and celebrates the messiness we make when we try to grow.
“Didi” is currently not rated, but it has strong profanity throughout and mild violence.
Other Noteworthy Information
- Filmmaker Sean Wang was inspired by “Stand by Me” and wished to create his own coming-of-age story and place it where he grew up: Fremont, California. He considers the movie a love letter to friends, family, and his hometown.
“Didi” General Information
|January 19, 2024
|How To Watch
|Film Festival – Sundance 2024
|1 Hour, 31 Minutes
|Noted Characters and Cast
“Didi” Character Descriptions
Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.
Chris Wang (Izaac Wang)
Chris is a 13-year-old boy in every way imaginable. He fights with his older sister, he blows up mailboxes with friends, he tries to skate, and he has trouble expressing himself online and with girls, especially his crush, Madi. Chris is on the cusp of new experiences, but he’s grappling with his own identity too.
- The actor is also known for their role in “Gremlins: Secret of the Mogwai.”
Vivian Wang (Shirley Chen)
Vivian is Chris’ older sister. She’s one month away from leaving for college and is ready to leave the household. Her relationship with her little brother is strained, but she slowly sees her brother changing and wants to be there for his questions.
- The actor is also known for their role in “Quiz Lady.”
Chungsing Wang (Joan Chen)
Chungsing is Chris and Vivian’s mom and often bears the responsibility of solely raising her kids. Chungsing struggles to understand her children, especially Chris. Chungsing faces more pressure under her mother-in-law’s constant judgment about how she raises her kids.
- The actor is also known for their role in “Twin Peaks.”
Madi (Mahaela Park)
Madi is Chris’ teen crush. She’s sweet and receptive to Chris, often being the conversation starter between them. Madi also has more knowledge of movies and pop culture than Chris, which puts him at a disadvantage in conversation.
Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)
An Incredibly Accurate Depiction of 2000s Teen Life
From the handheld camcorders to the Windows XP log-in screen, director Sean Wang takes viewers back to the early 2000s with stunning accuracy in “Didi.” The music, fashion, digital cameras, and Myspace profiles are all on display as teens bare their souls in every way imaginable. As Didi’s grandma, Nai Nai, laments about kids playing outside, Wang understands that this generation can garner nostalgia with the click of a mouse.
An Intimate Visual Diary of Sean Wang and Adolescence
My favorite moment in “Didi” is the silent knowingness between Chris and his mom; they simply stare at each other and smile as Nai Nai chides them both. There are moments in “Didi” that feel like we’re living in Wang’s memory, to the point where the intimacy is uncomfortable. But “Didi” beautifully conveys the search for belonging and the fixation over what to say and how to say it.
On The Fence
“Didi” and the Greatest Hits of Dumb Decisions at 13
Early on in “Didi,” there’s a scene where Chris pees in his sister’s skincare bottle. The scene is played for laughs but also feels unnecessary, which leads to the film’s primary litmus test: empathy and laughter depend on how relatable you find Chris. Chris is a teenager. He screams, curses, and often makes dumb decisions. We all do that. Watching Chris’ decisions unfold is a bold choice, but it also comes at the risk of losing the audience. Rather than telling a story, “Didi” can feel like seeing someone process a series of painful choices they made as a kid.
Good If You Like
- Coming-of-age stories, Asian representation, and stories that take place in the early 2000s.
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