The Motel

Director: Michael Kang
Screenwriters: Michael Kang


Michael Kang makes an auspicious debut with this warm and wonderfully observed story of a working-class Chinese American boy. The Motel brings a fresh character and a unique world to life while expertly rendering classically raw shades of male pubescence.

Thirteen-year-old Ernest Chin lives and works in a sleazy hourly rate motel with his battle-axe of a mother, his grandpa, and his little sister Katie. Abandoned by his father, Ernest takes on the responsibilities of the family business and, after school, routinely checks in guests, sponges down their desire-soiled rooms, and babysits Katie while she plays in the asphalt parking lot with her headless, dirt-filled Barbie doll. Looking on is Christine, Ernest's 15-year-old love, whose family owns the Chinese restaurant across the street. Of course, Christine thinks Ernest is a dork. Enter Sam Kim, a charismatic Korean American man with a troubled past and a penchant for booze and prostitutes. Sam sees himself in Ernest, a boy careening through the worst stages of adolescence with nobody to help guide him. After bonding with the boy over midnight fried chicken, Sam becomes inspired to take Ernest under his wing—but the new alliance is not always an easy one.

Kang's characters, brought to life by a talented troupe of actors, are sensitively drawn, genuine, and heartfelt. The Motel is a treat as a peek into childhood and all of its clumsy victories.

(Archives note: see also Michael Kang's Meet The Artist interview on our YouTube Channel.)

— Shari Frilot

Screening Details

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