“A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” is a quiet, little, indie flick about an old father who comes from China to visit his recently divorced daughter who lives in America.  From the opening scene, we know there is some kind of rift between the two, as the father and daughter meet each other at the airport for the first time in 12 years.  No hugs, no kisses.  I’ve given warmer greetings to strange but friendly doggies.  The father at least gives his daughter a compliment, saying her looks hasn’t changed since the last time he saw her.   And for the next 70 minutes or so, that’s how it goes: the father tries hard to connect with his kid, and she is indifferent.

The father does do some annoying things that will drive most adult children nuts, like telling her she needs to eat more, and adding more food to her plate, and to not stay up too late because she has work the next day.   But he does that out of love, and he is a sweet, old man; and he’s just trying to figure out how to help his daughter who clearly has emotional issues that she keeps to herself.

As days go by, the daughter finds more and more excuses to not be in the apartment with her father when her day from work is finished.  So, during the night, the dad usually has dinner by himself, reads the paper, and tries to decipher words and phrases that he reads in order to improve his English.  During the day, he usually goes to the park and has conversations with an old, Iranian woman.   There is nothing profound about the numerous talks he has with the woman.  The conversations are simple, about everyday things that are going on with their lives, and things they used to do many years ago.  It’s very refreshing to hear dialogue that is realistic and gives us insight as to what type of people we are listening to.   Realistic dialogue lacks the flash and flair of typical movie dialogue, but it has the power of drawing you in as the characters become more real to the audience.

In the middle of the last act, the tension between the father and daughter leads to a sequence of 2 scenes that tells us of why the daughter is resentful of her father, and the father’s explanation of what we are told by the daughter.  This is my most memorable, movie moment of “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers.”  It is a reminder that we need to withhold judgment of people until we hear their side of the story; because there are usually 3 sides to every story: that guy’s side, that other guy’s side, and the truth, which is somewhere in the middle.

Here’s an example.   Not too long ago, my sister-in-law (“sil”) had friends bring over an exercise bike (that they no longer needed) to our house so my mom can use it as part of her exercise routine.  I come home from work and see the bike — already assembled — and notice that it is too big for my mom to operate.  The seat height was too high, even at its lowest setting; the handles were too high; and the effort to pedal was too much for my mom to deal with.  I criticized “sil” to my mom for bringing this behemoth to the house.  How could “sil” not know just from looking at it that my mom wouldn’t be able to use it?  What the hell is wrong with her?  Well, the next day, I’m out in the backyard, and I see the box that the exercise bike came in.  I came to the correct conclusion that the bike came in the box, obviously unassembled, and that is why “sil” didn’t realize it was going to be too big for my mom.   Yup, I felt small; and I’m a tiny guy as it is.

M

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