Golden Delicious


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Cardi Wong in Golden Delicious
"Much messier and more like real life than the average coming-of-age film."

Who is Jake? Played by Cardi Wong, he’s a teenager growing up in an Asian Canadian family, already caught, at least in the eyes of those around him, between two separate identities. He lives with his mother and father, but the tension between them is palpable. His father, pursuing a lost dream of his own, tries to get him to play basketball, and because he’s not very good at it (largely due to a lack of any genuine interest), he falls short of the received idea of what makes a man. Meanwhile, his girlfriend Valerie (Parmiss Sehat) wants them to lose their virginity together, but something doesn’t feel right – and he finds himself strangely drawn to the confident young gay guy who has just moved in across the road.

The fact that this film screened as part of BFI Flare 2023 will give you some clue as to what’s going on in Jake’s head, but what’s pleasing about this film is that it’s complicated – much messier and more like real life than the average coming-of-age film, even if it does incorporate a prom-like dance at the end. What’s more, every one of the characters we meet has something more going on, rather than just being a prop in Jake’s story. it’s the weight of all these other influences which confuses him, making it harder for him to figure out his own identity.

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In a story like this there’s always a risk of coming across as biphobic, suggesting that a character has to give up one set of attractions to embrace another, but the careful script and sensitive performances reveal something different going on here. Jake has deep feelings for Valerie and it’s easy to see why, prior to discovering real desire, he assumed that this was how most couples experienced love. The pressure which Valerie exerts would immediately be seen as problematic if their genders were reversed, but young as they are, neither of them recognises that. Like a lot of people their age, they’re just blundering around trying to work things out without much guidance.

Newcomer Aleks (Chris Carson) knows exactly who he is, which seems to be part of what makes him so appealing to Jake. A simple, easily explained identity would be part of the deal – and yet Jake doesn’t know how to cope with that identity at a social level. Having experienced homophobia, he assumes the worst in everybody. The tensions in his family lead him to overlook how much his parents and sister (who is fighting her own battles, wanting to become a chef against their wishes) love him, and he tends not to notice the support available from friends who are completely unphased by Aleks’ sexuality.

Leeah Wong is excellent as Jake's mother in a subplot which sees her finally approaching breaking point after years of unhappiness working in the family restaurant, whilst Ryan Mah, as his father, is experiencing his own identity crisis, figuring out what to do as his business and marriage fall short of his hope and his children begin to make their own way in the world. Although we see a lot of this from a distance, as Jake notices looks or overhears fragments of conversation which he struggles to contextualise, the quality of the acting is such that viewers will have no difficulty in following it.

With the technical work here also strong, Golden Delicious stands out as one of the most impressive LGBTQ+ themed films of the year to date, and it will appeal to viewers far beyond that niche audience. Catch it if you can.

Reviewed on: 22 Mar 2023
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Golden Delicious packshot
An Asian Canadian teenager grapples with his identity when he falls for the boy next door. What will his family think? And how will he tell his girlfriend?
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Director: Jason Karman

Writer: Gorrman Lee

Starring: Cardi Wong, Chris Carson, Parmiss Sehat

Year: 2022

Runtime: 120 minutes

Country: Canada

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