Not many are aware that Randall Park, the American comedian and screenwriter, has made his directorial debut. This unexpected foray has resulted in Shortcomings, a comedy-drama feature. Brilliantly executed and delightfully hilarious, the film portrays the journey of rediscovering purpose after losing everything we once treasured so dreadfully.
Shortcomings somewhat fits into the “mumblecore” genre, placing significant emphasis on the depth and substance of dialogues. In this story, adapted from a comic book by Adrian Tomine, we are introduced to Ben (Justin H Min) and Miko (Ally Makiz). On the surface, they seem like a successful pair. They aren’t necessarily in crisis, but they face challenges typical of long-standing couples. Misunderstandings and frustrations are common in such relationships and Park, fully aware of this, utilises it as the driving force behind his plot.
As they say, Ben is quite the swine, and it’s possibly his repeated behaviour that leads a disheartened Miko to decide they should finally take a break. Now in unfamiliar waters, the protagonist confides his troubles with Alice (Sherry Cola), his talkative but immediately likeable best friend. With her encouragement, Ben starts to shift his pitiful life circumstances. There’s a palpable chemistry between the two, which drives Shortcomings to its very end.
At times, this comedy-drama can feel slightly devastating: Park’s straightforward and spot-on observations about personal egos, toxic behaviours and complex relationships might suddenly pierce the viewer’s heart. Furthermore, while Park sharply criticises his protagonist’s attitude, he finds depth in it, seeking to teach his main character more than a mere lesson.
It leads to a clear, though not obvious, assertion. On the surface, Shortcomings resembles the latest season of Netflix’s Sex Education: the more experienced the viewer, the deeper the appreciation for the characters’ decisions. Life isn’t a fairy tale that invariably concludes with a sugary happy ending, and this is what the film is about. Occasionally, harm can be done unintentionally, and there’s no rectifying it. People might genuinely support one another, yet find themselves at a wrong moment and time.
Although Park is a prominent actor, this brand-new role suits him well. Shortcomings is not revolutionary, but it’s packed with biting wit and rich comments on the social dynamics of Asian millennials. The movie quickly highlights that every cultural group, no matter the differences, faces common concerns. With this perspective in mind, watching the film becomes almost inevitable, reinforcing that we’re not alone in our problems that feel too abstract to be real.
Shortcomings does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Shortcomings here: