Movie Review: Happy Cleaners (2021)

Available in select theatres Feb. 5, 2021 and on demand Feb. 12, 2021.

There’s memory and money in laundering as one Korean-American family comes to grips with transitions of their business and domestic life in Julian Kim and Peter S. Lee’s delightful drama Happy Cleaners (B). Yun Jeong and Yeena Sung effectively portray twentysomething siblings Kevin and Hyunny who grapple with entrepreneurial and romantic dreams while under the same roof as their parents (authentically played by Charles Ryu and Hyang-hwa Lim) who try to make ends meet at their Flushing, New York dry cleaners. Family meals provide both forum and balm for much of the conflict around finances and tradition. For these immigrants, there’s no order slip or recipe for creating and maintaining an ordered home of aligned expectations. Characters must learn to reconcile and compromise and occasionally jettison outdated notions. In the film’s details, Kim and Lee demonstrate the pride of characters to make their own way in the world without financial assistance and showcase many of the singular struggles of second generation Americans to find their space. Although full of a low boil of conflict, the film’s tone is largely optimistic and sentimental and the characters endearing. Viewers will likely see themselves in this family’s dynamics.

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