Sep 28, 2023
Lloyd Lee Choi
Lloyd Lee Choi
Milinka Winata, Eleven Lee, Allen Chen
Growing up on the streets of New York is tough, just ask any Italian American gangster (not exclusive to films directed by Francis Ford Coppola or Martin Scorsese). The Big Apple is a city of dreams and aspirations, with buildings and parts of the city that are just like a Woody Allen film or ‘When Harry Met Sally’, but its also a place where dreams go to die, and a rough city full of danger and people just trying their best to get by.
‘Closing Dynasty’ beautifully captures this side of New York City through the innocent eyes of its seven year old protagonist Queenie (Milinka Winata) as the film artfully presents childhood innocence in the backdrop of one of the most famous cities in the world. Queenie should really be at school - its a Wednesday - however, she’s a headstrong young woman with a sense of duty beyond her years. This leads to her asking people on the subway if they can spare a few dollars to save her basketball team. The money isn’t for the basketball team, and the people seem to know this as they continually reject her pleads - perhaps the most unrealistic part of the film.
Queenie is an incredible protagonist, contrasting both innocence with strength. She holds her arms out as she chases the pigeons and runs down the sidewalk in the most pure expression of childish innocence, yet also swears when she discovers a diamond in the trash, and even resorts too theft in order to hustle some money. She is mature beyond her years yet so inexperienced in the world at the same time, understanding that her family is undergoing financial difficulty and that they need money, yet she collects puddle water to drink, pours a ton of sugar in someone’s coffee, and, rather hilariously, picks up a discarded cigarette and proceeds to do what she believes is smoking.
Milinka Winata is incredible in the lead role, possessing the contrasting sides of Queenie necessary for the performance. It is a performance beyond her years, with a depth uncommon in child actors, and she truly embodies the character through her sheer personality and wide smile. Director Lloyd Lee Choi, who also wrote the script, captures the radiancy of her performance majestically through the colours and lighting used to illuminate even the darkest parts of New York, bringing the city around Queenie to life, though keeping her at the very forefront - as of course every child believes themselves to be - through his consistently excellent framing of shots.
There’s a kind of magic in the transcendent way in which ‘Closing Dynasty’ captures the contrast between youth and innocence, and the dire straits that have forced Queenie to take to the streets and start trying to hustle people for money. Its a story as much about Queenie as it is about New York, and the people that make the city what it truly is - a truly cosmopolitan environment in which dreams are both made and crushed, where there is beauty and innocence behind every persons story.