The Kids is a compelling coming of age story about high school students Bao-Li (Wu Chien Ho) and Jia-Jia (Wen Chen Ling) who must go through everyday life as teenage parents in modern day Taiwan. Issues such as abuse, gambling, and crime plague the two as they strive to do what they can to raise their daughter.
During a Q&A session after the film’s premiere at the Hawaii International Film Festival, the director and creator, Sunny Wu, mentioned that she originally was inspired to make this film when she was a young girl in her father’s shop. Her father had an employee who had dropped out of high school at 16 because he was now a father and wanted to work to support his family. Because of this, Ms. Wu wanted to make a film that embodied the tribulations that boy went through.
Prior to watching this film, I was unaware of Ms. Wu’s inspiration behind her film. At first, I was only partially impressed with the film due to the storyline being one that was not uncommon, especially for an American viewer who has witnessed countless of teen pregnancy reality shows, but due to her explanation, my appreciation for the film increased, allowing me to reflect from a different perspective.
The Kids offers a great dialogue for parents to discuss the issue of teenage parenting and what is expected once you have the baby. Both Bao-Li and Jia-Jia beautifully portray the roles of a teenage father and a teenage mother. Bao-Li does this by taking us through the motions of tough decisions he has to make in order to support his daughter. We see him selflessly work countless hours at his local restaurant, spend his free time devoted to caring for his daughter, and worrying that he is not providing Jia-Jia with the love that he thinks that he deserves.
Jia-Jia, on the other hand, develops a bit differently. She becomes colder towards Bao-Li after the baby is born, most likely due to the fact that she is still coping with such a drastic change in her life. Also, she has a secret romantic relationship with her manager at her job despite both of them being married. I would guess that the affair with the older man probably stems with her abusive past with her father and her boss being a way to escape those harsh memories.
As the film progresses, we see how these characters develop away from their initial introductions. Bao-Li turns to a life of crime to help him pay for the money that his mother has gambled away while Jia-Jia realizes that she is indeed still in love with Bao-Li and comes to his side when he is arrested for armed robbery. I think that this shift in characters made the two seem more realistic and less one-dimensional. Prior to the shift, I worried that Bao-Li seems “too good to be true” and that Jia-Jia was a bit selfish. But thanks to this development, the film did become not only more enjoyable, but more susceptible to be the start of an important dialogue between parents and teens. Ms.Wu also mentioned in the Q&A that the intended audience she had for this movie was parents because she wanted to show the issue of teenage parenting through the actual teen perspective, allowing parents to get more of an insight.
Overall, the film was shot well, especially with the solemn, gray colors that were used all throughout the film to depict a more melancholy, gloomy mood. Personally. I wish that the film was longer because I would have liked to see more character development but with the time that it was done it, I think that Ms. Wu’s vision was executed nicely. I am interested to see more films from her soon.