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New Review: Children of Invention

October 8, 2009


Even if Tze Chun’s Children of Invention was a bad film (which it is not) no one could deny the strength of the two child actor’s performances.

Based on the filmmaker’s own experience, the children of invention are Raymond (Michael Chen) and Tina (Crystal Chiu). The kids are first generation Chinese growing up in Boston with single mom Elaine (Cindy Cheung). Elaine is an illegal immigrant trying to get by and easily falling into the trap of pyramid schemes.

In fact, we first meet Elaine as she tries to get her money back from a vitamin sales pyramid scheme but she is quickly kicked to the curb. Losing her home next, we see the three move into a model condo unit in an unfinished building (thank goodness for the slumping economy). Elaine quickly gets involved with yet another scheme, but rather than learn from her first mistake, she becomes entangled ending in her arrest. As a mother, I struggled with Elaine’s poor choices but the filmmaker balances a fine line – not making the mom out to be a criminal but instead showing the challenge in trying to raise two children in a country where she can’t find legal work.

Elaine hides the fact that she has children from the police and Tina and Raymond are left on their own for days. What is charming about the film is how we are left to follow along with the kids as they explore the world from their viewpoint. Raymond gets the idea that to eat, they need the money his grandmother gave him which is locked away in a bank in Boston. Rather than just decide to go get the money, he comes up with a plan to build upon that money in order to get his mom a house.

What could be a frightening time for the two children is instead an adventure that challenges both to be creative and learn to stand on their own – complete with daydreams of grandeur for both children.

While the kids don’t know how close they skirt danger, the audience does leaving us gripping the edge of our seats worrying for their safety. The film also subtly challenges stereotypes including a comic moment when a woman shouts slowly at Tina for her to be able to understand. Tina asks in perfect English, “why are you talking like that?”

“Children of Invention” played Sidewalk Film Festival and plays Indie Memphis this weekend.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 8, 2009 3:17 pm

    Hi, thanks for the review! You can view trailers, watch clips, and read more reviews at


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