With “Go Back to China,” writer-director Emily Ting (“Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong”) imbues her semiautobiographical sophomore feature with sunny, sweet charm. This fish-out-of-water story largely works, thanks to Ting’s light touch and the likability of YouTuber and music star Anna Akana as its bratty but ultimately kindhearted lead.
Surrounded by $300 wines and sexy baby voices, Sasha (Akana) lives a glamorous life in Los Angeles. Her degree in fashion hasn’t led to a real job, but that hasn’t kept her from shopping trips and VIP service.
However, her Chinese father (Richard Ng) is done spoiling her. He cuts off her access to her trust fund but promises to restore her money if she will move back to China for a year to help him with his toy factory in Shenzen. Though she initially cries over her new fate — and Shenzen’s lack of avocados — Sasha begins a journey that won’t just change her but will change her family’s company as well.
“Go Back to China” weaves between comedy and drama, with far more success in the former, though there are some genuine emotions here. The actors are also generally better at the film’s lighter moments, but there’s value in this story of a young woman who discovers who she is and what she can do. Not every note rings true, but this breezy pop song of a movie is mostly fun while it lasts.
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Playing: Starts March 6, ArcLight Hollywood; Laemmle Glendale, Glendale; also on VOD