WTF ASIA 222: Hers (2017)

A small story about a small home and the big measures to keep it.

Available in AustraliaCanadathe United Kingdomthe United States, and perhaps a few other countries. Approximately 83 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, that is her. Since she is not named in the movie, I will refer to her as Mother Barchimeg. And the titular “hers” is that kiosk, which I will refer to as the kiosk. She has run it for fifteen years. And this is Khurelee, who owes Mother Barchimeg money for running up a tab at the kiosk.

Mother Barchimeg chases Khurelee to the top of a building and threatens to reveal his debt to his family. She tells him that she has her own debt to pay and has been struggling to make sure that her two daughters are fed. Yeah, he had not been paying attention and has run off. She screams at him and vows to never let him borrow anything from her again. least she has his jacket.

Speaking of daughters and…the kiosk, this is the younger daughter, Ariunaa, who has pretty much grown up in her little corner of the kiosk.

So, most of the customers must live in the various apartments that surround this kiosk, so they must be paying rent. Do they save money for rent by just running up debt at the kiosk? And does that, in turn, prevent this family from living in one of those actual apartments? Jeez.

Mother Barchimeg returns, vowing to refuse to lend anything to anyone ever again. And like clockwork, someone arrives asking for to give him cigarettes and note it in her debt journal. And…even though he had paid his previous debt late, she gives him the cigarettes. Well, so much for not lending out anything anymore. But it is part of the kiosk.

Here comes elder daughter, Chimgee, from university. Immediately she and her mother get to bickering over Chimgee not working enough for the kiosk vs her studying for a degree to help the family. It is the same argument for days and days.

Mother Barchimeg leaves for the wholesale trade market to buy goods. She buys them in bulk and then adds 20-to-30 tugrugs to their wholesale price. That…wait…32 tugrugs is around a penny USD. I don’t know if that is profitable enough. If she is still struggling to make ends meet, then perhaps this system does not work that well. In any case, she appears to have a better relationship with the sellers here than with Chimgee. She can help them with children’s health problems or their own relationship woes. Although I am not sure if her advice to a woman to ply her husband with vodka day in and day out until he gets sick of it is particularly sound.

At dinner, Chimgee says that the university will start dismissing students who have not paid the tuition fee. With that, Ariunaa declares that she will not waste money by going to university, as it will not make her life easier. Once she graduates, she will go abroad. Mother Barchimeg says that she plans to rent the kiosk on the opposite road, sell goods from there, and use the profits to buy a house. Chimgee tells her that this is a terrible idea based only on her obsession with kiosks. Kiosks kiosks kiosks. Ariunaa says nothing, but it is obvious that she believes similarly as they both put down their dinners and walk to the…other section of the kiosk.

Ariunaa thinks back to when her father was still around. Or at least tries to imagine a time, since she can no longer remember it. She has been told that the family had a 3-room apartment. And then they moved to a shantytown, which she barely remembers. What she does remember standing in front of the kiosk with her mother and sister when her father lost everything and the bank took all that they had.

Mother Barchimeg‘s dream of buying that apartment gets interrupted by someone putting the kiosk on a truck and driving off…with the three still inside. They yell at the driver to stop, but he doesn’t until he gets to his destination. I guess some sort of impound.

Mother Barchimeg goes to this guy to complain about her home getting taken. He claims that these were just orders from his boss and there is nothing that he can do about it. So, she demands to speak with his boss. Chimgee, who has always hated the kiosk, also yells at him for taking their home.

Out in the cold for the night, Chimgee asks what they do now. Instead of…trying to reassure her daughters, Mother Barchimeg mocks them for having previously shown such antipathy for the kiosk. When Chimgee talks back, Mother Barchimeg claims that no one will marry her with that attitude. Chimgee snaps. No one will marry her because she has been too afraid to reveal her living situation to anyone. No one will marry her because she is 30 and still at university because she has had to take year-long breaks between half-semesters due to being unable to pay for tuition. Mother Barchimeg tells her to stop studying then, and get a job instead. They have to use only what they get, not wait on dreams. Ariunaa asks them to stop arguing, as the kiosk won’t grow legs and return to them, regardless of who wins. They have to find a solution. First off, where are they sleeping tonight?

Well, it looks like the three of them snuck into the kiosk and spent the night there. The employee at the place found out and bangs on the door. He says that he could get fired if he lets them stay there. I am not sure that they sympathize with his plight.

I don’t know how Mother Barchimeg could sleep through whatever happened before this, but she wakes up to find herself no longer in the kiosk. She is mortified and is shocked that her daughters are not. I guess that they got it out of their system. And, anyways, this is what they got.  

Oh wait, nevermind. That was a dream.

Chimgee is in her…journalism class. The teacher…professor?…he asks the class to give their opinions of what journalism means in the 21st century. He gets a couple of…kind of high-minded puffed-up answers. He then puts up an internet video on the big screen of…yep, a woman who getting roughed up by city workers. When he explains that the woman had lived in the kiosk that had been taken away, the students laugh. He repeats that and they laugh again. Jeez, are people really that cruel? In any case Chimgee lashes out and berates them for laughing at a poor woman being forced out of her home. Tears in her eyes, she rushes out of the classroom. That was…a bit on the nose, but okay.

One student runs after Chimgee and asks why she reacted so badly. With barely a hesitation, she tells him that the woman is her mother. Still funny to him? She continues walking.

Mother Barchimeg goes to try to find whoever has the authority to have the kiosk returned. Perhaps the person can be guilted…or bribed. Instead, she gets sent through a bureaucratic pinball game between departments.

Eventually, Mother Barchimeg joins Ariunaa and Chimgee, who are visiting a friend’s sister at her apartment. Ariunaa finds that the story has blown up on social media. Chimgee thinks that it is just due to sensationalism and Mother Barchimeg doubts that the interest will last. Huh…and then they get ready to go. I guess that Ariunaa and Chimgee did not say anything about their situation? The mother lies about having a cousin who will take them in, but Ariunaa blows that up. The friend offers to let them stay overnight. So, they do. 

Unfortunately, the friend’s parents arrive unannounced the next morning. Her father is ill and so she needs to help take care of him. She apologizes to Mother Barchimeg for not being able to let her family stay over again, but Mother Barchimeg tells her not to worry about them.

The three go to City Hall to speak to the mayor. The person at the front desk tells them that they cannot meet him, but they can file a petition as long as they include a proper home address while filing it out. A home address? Well, whatever.

After filling out the petition, they wait outside. Chimgee doubts that anything will happen for at least two years, and Mother Barchimeg chides her for her cynical pessimism. Ariunaa tries to head off another argument by asking where they will sleep tonight.

Mother Barchimeg suggests that they look in the paper for an apartment to rent. So, they sit around a train station for hours, trying to find apartments that are available. Unfortunately, most that are ask for more than they can provide, often demanding deposit. In the end, they just spend the night at the train station.

The three return to City Hall. The woman at the front desk does not even look up from her cellphone as she tells them that the results of the petition have not come in. She tells them to come back tomorrow. And when they come the next day, she tells them to come back tomorrow. Eventually, Mother Barchimeg snaps at her. But at that moment…the mayor emerges.

The three manage to catch the mayor before he enters his car. Mother Barchimeg tells him that their kiosk has been taken and they have spent the last few days sleeping in the train station. He asks if she had official permission and she says that they had lived there for 15 years. The mayor tells her that there needs to be official documentation, which starts with the petition.  

As the mayor gets into the car, Mother Barchimeg that they are waiting for the results, but are always told to come the next day. He says that there will be a meeting next week. As the car starts to drive off, the three give chase. Mother Barchimeg asks where they will live until the meeting and the mayor says that he is not god. The car speeds up. Even the cynical Chimgee seems shocked at the notion that the mayor and his staff don’t care whether their citizens are homeless or hungry.

Remembering how she had gone viral before, Mother Barchimeg tells Ariunaa to get out her phone and record her. She tells her story so that the whole city will know how she was mistreated and dismissed by the mayor on down.

In the video, Mother Barchimeg…um…asks where the mayor lives. It must be fancy.

Not too shabby indeed…but…now what?

 

 

 

 

 

This is a pretty cute movie. I enjoy the main characters and the push-pull of their dynamics. And I enjoy the willingness of the script to go in various unexpected directions, even in the movie’s relatively short runtime. It is pretty creative that way. No, it is not the most subtle movie, the humor can be broad and the drama is…melo…but I enjoy that it swings for the fences with the budget that it has.

There is a scrappiness to the movie that kind of mirrors the character of the mother. For the most part, it shows a drive to keep going regardless of what the world throws. One just has to be willing to be persistent and resilient when one thing doesn’t work.

Not all of the movie’s decisions work. A couple of characters attached the mayor are a bit…eh for opposite reasons. For a movie that is about a family that is rendered homeless, there does not seem to be any depiction of other homeless people. And for a movie that wants to talk about sympathy for those struggling, there is a brief detour to other people struggling on the fringes of society and…they are not really portrayed with much sympathy. Additionally, the last stretch of the movie was less a resolution than a series of twists that came so fast that I had little time to process them. Especially that last one. I guess that there was still more story to tell, but they really wanted to keep the movie from being much longer than 83 minutes. It did lead to a rather interesting sequence that I would not have expected from how the rest of the movie was, though.

It also seems to have a somewhat interesting take on pride and dignity. For the daughters, the kiosk is a source of shame. Shame over their circumstances tends to force them to hide their circumstances and even prevents them from doing what needs to be done because it would be too humiliating. Meanwhile Mother Barchimeg has wrapped her entire life around the kiosk that she does not understand why they would want to escape that life, let alone why they would object to her renting a second one. She finds dignity in her way of life and sees no shame in doing anything to rectify what she sees as an injustice towards her. That said, she does not want to admit how her way of life has brought them to this point, even in private. Conversely, the daughters have less qualms about begging for help in private circumstances, and will stand up for themselves and each other when pushed. As much as they may clash and bicker, they need each other to get through this.

This is a small movie, but a nice one. If you have no time for the previous movies, this is a quick and enjoyable watch.

 

 

 

 

WTF ASIA 223: K’na, The Dreamweaver (The Philippines: 2014, approx. 86 minutes)

No Wikipedia

Available in AustraliaCanadathe United States, and perhaps a few other countries.

 

WTF ASIA 224: Snow Trail (Japan: 1947, approx. 89 minutes0

Wikipedia

Available in Canadathe United States, and perhaps a few other countries.