Turning Red is another one of those Pixar films that urges you to follow the desires of your heart. It will surely remind you of Luca, where the protagonist had to embrace his identity of being a sea monster. Because in Turning Red, the main character has to embrace her identity of being a red monster. In both movies, the parents are careful about the well-being of their children. Perhaps, too careful. Their love is far from lovely. It’s suffocating. When Meilin (Rosalie Chiang) is surrounded by her grandmother and her aunties as they assure her they will take care of everything, the image on the screen drips with a sense of oppressiveness.
All Meilin wants is to prove herself to her mother Ming (Sandra Oh), who is overprotective and thus controlling. She decides what’s good and bad for her daughter. Meilin prepares a presentation to seek permission to attend boy band 4-Town’s concert, but Ming rejects the plan because she doesn’t like the boy band (given that the presentation ends with sparkles, I wanted to see the full lecture). So consumed she is about her mother’s feelings and approval that when she is embarrassed in front of other kids at a store (thanks to the assumptions made by the dear mom after coming across some sketches), she scolds and blames herself for the entire quagmire.
But when Meilin is no longer able to withstand Ming’s hawk-like presence, she snaps and transforms into a red panda. This new creature is big, soft, and fluffy and can be released through the discharge of strong emotions. Cue interpretations of being a rebel or different from your family members or holding onto your messy nature. Conversely, if you don’t want your brain to do work, then sit back and relax and let the movie spell out the mentioned interpretations. This doesn’t mean I am blaming Turning Red for not being subtle. It’s primarily made for children, and it should have appeal to them. However, anyone who has watched the recent Disney/Pixar films can notice the reiteration of certain themes found in other movies from the same studio. We have already seen how Turning Red calls to mind Luca. Well, it also recalls Encanto, given how the character constantly tries to maintain an image of perfection in front of her family members.
Then again, which movie today comes with a story that is one hundred percent original? What’s important is how the story is presented by the filmmakers. And Turning Red, while it’s on, exudes pleasure. You either forget your problems or, depending on your age, see them through Meilin and wait for her emancipation. The movie is made with such sensitivity that you can’t help but submit yourself to its gentleness. It’s impossible to not wish for best friends like Miriam (Ava Morse), Abby (Hyein Park), and Priya (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan). They support Meilin like a backbone, helping her stand straight despite occasional falls. Meilin reverts to her human form by thinking about her friends as they soothe her down.
When I was a child, I considered my mother a wrathful behemoth whenever she scolded me for something or other. Naturally then, I smiled when Ming, as a giant red panda, looked down and screamed at Meilin for her disobedience. Meilin and I may be divided by our age and culture, but we are united by the same vision of an angry, monstrous mother.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.