The following contains spoilers for Found Family, a short film directed by Esmée Lavalette

There’s something about short films that captures an incredibly pure version of emotions. When a plot is distilled down to just 10 minutes, only the bits that are essential can be left. Removing the fluff doesn’t decrease the viewer’s investment; it creates a final product filled with a visceral charge from start to finish.

Of course, that’s the goal of short film. It isn’t always that the writer and director manage to achieve their initial vision, but in Found Family, this is exactly what happened.

Found Family is about a teenager, Elyse (Nicole Ohara), who lives at home with her parents. Right from the start, it’s clear that her father (Edward Wooden) is abusive. The trio sit at the kitchen table while Elyse’s father yells at her mother (Juls Hoover) about his dinner roll not tasting buttery enough. It put me on edge immediately, and I felt myself squirming with discomfort at the scene.

As we continue through the film, we find out that Elyse and her mother live in fear of their father, moving around him and obeying in attempts to prevent him from shouting, or potentially worse. We also learn that Elyse has a girlfriend. They’ve never met in person before, but they have matching panda bear stuffed animals, and it’s clear from their Facetime calls that they deeply care about each other. Her girlfriend, Alex (Kasey Furginson), is Korean and both of her parents are supportive of the relationship. Elyse, who is played by a Hapa actress (although her parents appear to be white), hasn’t yet worked up the courage to tell her mother or father the truth about who she spends her nights talking to.

While part of this is most certainly that her father is likely to react with volatility, we see later that her mother, too, is that her mother is either also homophobic or isn’t strong enough to stand up to her father—even when physical violence is done to her child. Elyse comes out to her family after her father sees her text messages with Alex and wrongly assumes that his daughter is texting a boy. At that point, her life explodes, ultimately causing her to go to live with Alex and her family.

Ohara is absolutely incredible throughout this film. Her acting skills shine and bring together the emotional resonance of each and every scene. Her facial expressions, reaction to her father’s abuse, panicked phone calls, despair at being rejected by her family, and joy at meeting her girlfriend and family for the first time can all be felt through the screen. I sobbed—once out of sadness, once out of joy— multiple times watching this, and that is mostly because of how talented Ohara is.

It can sometimes be frustrating to watch yet another film about coming out and not being accepted, but I appreciated the way this film both fed into and spun the trope. Yes, Elyse absolutely had to endure trauma to reach her happy ending, but at under 13 minutes we didn’t have to wait long. It was nice to see the absolute love and support which Alex received in her family, a sign to young people that it isn’t bad everywhere.

This film most certainly isn’t easy to watch (content warnings below), but if you’re looking for an emotionally evocative queer short film featuring an AAPI main character and love interest, this is a great choice. Plus, the happy ending will have you rooting for a sequel.

Content Warnings: Emotionally abusive relationship, child abuse, homophobia

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