Story Analysis: Bao, a Pixar Animated Short Film
The short film Bao is a Pixar animated film that was released in 2018. This short film was written and directed by Domee Shi. I remember going to the theaters to watch The Incredibles 2 with my uncle. Before the movie began, the short film played, and I was in love. It was one of the cutest short stories I have ever seen. This short film is about a Canadian Chinese woman who suffers from empty-nest syndrome. Empty-nest syndrome is when parent(s) are going through a phase of grief and loneliness when their child leaves home to become established on their own. In this short film, the mother is clearly facing an adjustment problem and is sort of depressed from her life transitioning from taking care of her son to then having that feeling of emptiness. One day, she makes dumplings for herself and her husband. Her husband takes off from work, already showing the audience how she is instantly left alone when her husband rapidly eats the rest of the dumplings as he heads to work. As she is about to bite into one of her dumplings her dumpling begins to cry like an infant. She becomes startled and then realizes that she must take care and raise the little dumpling. As the years pass by, the mother becomes very overprotective because he is very soft and frail. The dumpling starts to grow rebellious in his teenage years and attempts to move out with his fiancée when he becomes an adult. The mother begins to cry and stop him from leaving. As she struggles to stop him, she picks him up and eats him. She begins to breakdown and becomes depressed again.
As the mother is still crying in bed, her biological son visits her. The audience now realizes that her biological son and the dumpling resemble each other, and she envisioned the dumpling as her biological son. At this point, the audience realizes that everything is a metaphor. As the plot progresses, the audience sees the dumpling grow in his teenage years. Both the real-life son and the dumpling even have similar goatees revealing that her real-life son resembles a dumpling. They both reconcile, and the entire family happily make dumplings at the dinner table.
This story showcases magical realism. Magical realism is when the story is rooted in reality while having a touch of magical elements. An example could be the films Midnight in Paris (2011), The Age of Adelaide (2015), and The Shape of Water (2017). I always liked movies that showcase magical realism because they don’t get caught up in the “how” and “why” they just go with the flow. When I constantly saw the food at home and the groceries I always think of “magical comfort food.” In this short film, I also liked how food played a big role in this film. In the beginning, we see the mother rolling the dough and pressing the dumpling together. Then, throughout the film we see food bringing people together. I believe sharing, cooking, and eating together helps us stay connected with our loved ones.
(I was unable to find the full video on YouTube, but instead found it on Vimeo. The link was unable to embed). So, here is the hyperlink.