This film is absolutely dazzling. I'd heard of it for nearly 22 years, but only just got to see it. It is virtually impossible to tell this film is now 24 years young.
Firstly, I cannot even begin to count the films "Dim Sum" has directly influenced. In the first place, it is so beautifully made, so ahead of its time, that if you saw it 'cold', you'd never know it was 1986...unless you noted the older cars on the street, or lack of cell phones. It's a quiet, beautifully paced film with minimalist yet profound dialogue.
This not only gave birth to mainstream Chinese-American stuff such as Ang Lee's offerings ("Push Hands" comes to mind)...it influenced just about all the quiet, low-key indie films. It is possible this movie actually invented the genre of quiet, naturallypaced realism. The emphasis on family togetherness, food and even the dining room is something I've seen from "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman" to "The Wedding Banquet" to "Down in the Delta" and "Dirty Laundry". What vision, what reach from 1986!!
Victor Wong, who was so busy at this time with some major films ("Big Trouble in Little China", "Joy Luck Club") absolutely shines. I'd seen his interviews in the documentary "Chan Is Missing", and the character he plays in "Dim Sum" is so very like him in real life. The way he talks about Chinese culture is fascinating...and he did the same thing in "Big Trouble in Little China", in spite of having to contend with a hammy performance by Kurt Russel.
One scene that blew me away was the brief shot of Victor walking through the streets of Chinatown. So real, so Victor, and so much fun just to see it again after all this time. Victor Wong, walking around Chinatown. Precious and priceless. The lady who plays the widowed mother--whose name always escapes me--is also charming, and her performance drew tears from my jade-like eyes because she was so like my own relatives. This cannot be missed.
Here Victor Wong is as comfortable as the old shoes we see at the foyer of the house (we always did that too, and my wife and I do it to this day). The old widow is delightful, an actress I still can't decide whether I can remember from old movies or not. The storyline is so basic, yet I think the missing element in other reviews is the deep, unending love between the old widow and her daughter. There, too, is the deep love with Wong's character, who plays the 'uncle' in this film. Truly, I can even see how this movie influenced Jackie Chan's films like "Rumble in the Bronx".
If you only ever get one of these kinds of 'Chinese family films', get this. It is meditative, soothing, beautiful and at times surprisingly touching. The acting and dialogue is unvarnished and charming as a Chinese spring morning. This is what film is all about, and I'm sorry about two things: 1) This film is virtually unheard of in America. 2) It was so far ahead of its time the style didn't really take until nearly 10 years later, when so many crappy indie films came out in the 1990s.
Get it and cherish it. There is no "Follywood" in this jewel of a film.