Courtesy Gene Siskel Film Center

Dealing with Dad delivers a fresh perspective of one of Hollywood’s most recycled tropes. Director-writer Tom Huang tells the story of Margaret Chang’s (Ally Maki) tumultuous and often volatile relationship with her father, illustrating how intimate tensions escalate when faced with a debilitating mental illness. When Margaret’s father falls into a severe depression, she returns home with her two brothers to discover that her father is shockingly amicable in his depressive state. As the siblings determine how to face their father’s depression, they begin to confront their enduring familial pressure, looking inward at themselves, and this is where the film shines. 

At its foundation, Dealing with Dad is a sentimental and gentle saga about overcoming the past. Huang tackles one of the most overplayed stories in film and manages to find a new angle, positioning the characters against and alongside each other simultaneously. Through these uncertain characters, the film imparts the realist sense of familial struggle. The story falters as it attempts to broaden its scope throughout the film, jumbling together too many subplots including underdeveloped love interests and an aunt that appears only as a plot device. When none reaches a satisfyingly climactic end, it raises questions as to why we met them in the first place.

Despite instances of mechanical acting, Dealing with Dad remains a sentimental story about confrontation and growth, providing an insightful glimpse into the nuances of first-generation Asian American families. While the film often overextends itself, Huang still manages to balance several complicated issues and pack them into a relatively succinct movie. 106 min.

Screened at Gene Siskel Film Center’s Asian American Showcase