Spa Night

DIRECTOR: Andrew Ahn

Bay Area Premiere

Expected to attend: Director Andrew Ahn, Producer David Ariniello, Producer Kelly Thomas, Producer Rick Weyrich, Producer Giulia Caruso, Actor Joe Seo

From the nearly wordless opening scene in a steam-veiled LA bathhouse, the atmosphere of Andrew Ahn’s deeply felt feature debut is thick with frustrated yearning and sublimated desire. Gay sex is both illicit and alluringly mysterious to the virginal teenage protagonist, who’s very gradually starting to buckle under the lifelong pressure of pleasing his Korean-born parents and doing the right thing (which, when it comes to upsetting cultural norms, usually means doing nothing). The prospect of sex is a source of confusing and conflicting emotions, but so is everything else as he approaches the threshold of adulthood.

David (Joe Seo, whose subtly nuanced portrayal of a good guy on the verge received a Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance at Sundance) helps out in his parents’ struggling storefront restaurant and avoids thinking about his future. But he can’t escape their expectations—or the conversations that invariably circle around to money. While David wrestles with the initial stirrings of gay identity, his parents grapple with the under-the-table economy and the grinding reality of their once-promising American dream.

Raised in a culture where adults paper over disappointment and failure with a happy face, David is shocked by the fissures opening between his parents. He takes a part-time job in a Korean bathhouse, subconsciously aware that he’s nearing an explosion, of sorts, when he can no longer deny any part of who he is.

With Spa Night, writer-director Ahn (who was on the editorial team of several Frameline documentary favorites including Vito, I Am Divine, and Tab Hunter Confidential) has crafted a visually impressive, steamily atmospheric first feature.

— Michael Fox

AT&T Audience Award Text Voting Code: F131

Co-presented by:
Center for Asian American Media
Gay Asian Pacific Alliance
Hyphen Magazine

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