Asian-American Thai (Moua) returns to his family home for a social event. With the relationship between him and his family severely strained, Thai hopes that this is the opportunity to tackle the tensions that have fermented over the years. His fiercely traditional father is the main focus of Thai’s woes though and when his health continues to decline, there are expectations that the son should offer support. Yet Thai has his own reasons for being reserved and, as he keeps personal secrets in place, he begins to uncover those within his family.
‘The Harvest’ tackles the familiar clash between the traditional and modern, something that is such a powerful theme in American cinema. As a country founded on immigration, the difficulty in American-born children appeasing their parents is a pertinent problem that many will feel a pull of recognition towards. ‘The Harvest’ is a slow-burning, independent take on inter-generational tension, focused on the patient reveal rather than the spectacular twist and in this way it feels much more relatable. One strength that cinema away from the mainstream has is in its thoughtful delivery and ‘The Harvest’ succeeds in conveying this. The soundtrack is understated and there are moments of quiet contemplation rather than the noise and fury of the big-budget experience.
While ‘The Harvest’ is well-acted and tightly written, it is a slow and methodical examination of the theme. It sometimes feels as if this is clinging to the ‘independent film-making rulebook’ a little too closely; the characters’ secrets are not especially surprising though that isn’t really the point. Certain story threads aren’t given quite the resolution they deserve and there is the inevitable judgement against the traditional in favour of the supposedly progressive and enlightened. It’s a predictable conceit that undoes some of the strengths that had been built up earlier in the film; the cantankerous father probably deserved more depth or reason to make him greater than just a representation of the antiquated. That said, ‘The Harvest’ is a pensive meditation on the chasm that often opens between generations. It may tread familiar ground, but the skill of the performances and the confident direction make it well worth watching.