In Queens, N.Y., in the disco ’70s, a young Chinese American (Bai Ling), as shy as she is beautiful, breaks character by having a one-night stand; the result is a baby (and marriage) she doesn’t want and ends up running out on. In Queens during the hip-hop present day, a young Chinese American (Kristy Wu), as arrogant as she is tomboyishly sexy, has an affair with a black DJ (Treach); the result is a romance her grandmother (Kieu Chinh), who raised her, won’t accept.
If these mild tales of domestic scandal, which make up the movie Face, sound familiar and even a bit cliché, they are just that, yet it’s a testament to the bare-bones decency displayed by director Bertha Bay-Sa Pan that we’re compelled by them anyway. What makes the drama work is the connection: The rebel-brat from the second story is, in case you hadn’t guessed, the grown-up daughter of that reluctant, torn, abandoning mother. When she returns after nearly 30 years, Face becomes a study of the immigrant embrace of freedom in America — a bridge built over time and generations. Ling, delicate and haunted, and Wu, a real spitfire, make their reconciliation sting as much as it soothes.