Living with Asperger’s, Nick (Booboo Stewart) has grown up idolizing his supportive brother Chaz (Harry Shum Jr.) When Chaz is suddenly killed in a car accident, their parents (B.D. Wong and Joan Chen), friends, and especially Nick take the loss very hard. In an effort to learn more about his brother, Nick befriends Chaz’s circle of buddies; discovering a side to his brother he never knew existed. As he is pushed from different sides by people, each wanting him to get over Chaz’s death in their own way, Nick must reconcile the real Chaz with the perception he held for so long.
Quentin Lee directs this warm and solid family drama that takes a hard look at loss, identity, and the search for acceptance. Juggling multiple themes effectively is difficult for even the best directors and Lee does an admirable job. Direction is tight, pace is natural, and he really gets some good performances out of his actors, especially from Stewart. It is polished work and while not yet technically astute, it is solid work and certainly worth building a career on.
Stewart turns in a great performance as Nick; he has good reactions, timing, and a real grasp of the mannerisms that typically occur to those living with Asperger’s. His character has difficulty communicating thoughts and ideas and it is up to Stewart to convey frustration, sadness, and understanding to the audience. It is a deeply layered portrayal and an excellent turn. Wong and Chen as the parents offer differing attempts to cope with Wong being pragmatic and attempting to force his family to grieve the way he wants and Chen torn between her real motherly pain and quiet dignity of appearance. Greg Sulkin is solid as Randy, Chaz’s best friend and also angry about the loss, who takes nick under his wings and forming a connection because of their mutual loss. Adopting a brotherly role he himself demonstrates considerable development during the course of the film. The extended cast does well too with small roles for Asian American actresses Amy Hill and Kelly Hu popping up and a unique and diverse collection of friends from Chaz’s life rounding out the deceased character’s profile.
While I would hesitate to call this film gritty or stylized, it does deal with some mature themes and handles its message well. With a very impressive performance by Stewart and some lean and meaningful direction, White Frog is a good solid family drama that should resonate with many minorities and sub sections of people. Good solid independent filmmaking.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Saving Face, Better Luck Tomorrow, and Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud.
Special Thanks to Wolfe Video for providing a viewing copy!