Family isn’t always easy… but it’s often funny.
Easter Sunday tells the story of Jo Valencia (Jo Koy), a struggling comedian who is also struggling to connect with his teenage son. Obsessed with work, Jo has difficulty making time for those he cares about as he scratches and claws to get his big break. Then, as the Easter long weekend approaches, Jo must return to his family home to celebrate the holiday. But can they survive the time with their crazy family?
While it doesn’t necessarily deserve its own holiday, Easter Sunday is a sweet and funny film that reminds us that family matters. Using the long holiday weekend as a backdrop, Easter explore the importance of reconnecting with one another and the difficulties that can come to light when we gather together. (For what it’s worth, the film was originally scheduled to be released in early April before the Easter season but was delayed, presumably due to COVID.) Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, there’s a fairly positive pulse and energy throughout the film that should fill the family entertainment gap. With an absolutely wonderful cast of comedy veterans, family interactions lean into the zanier family humour that made My Big Fat Greek Wedding a success. As such, there’s a sense of levity amongst the cast that almost makes their interactions feel like genuine family.
While some of the performances and writing admittedly feel forced, the film is held together by the energy and humour of Koy. As a man caught between fatherhood and son-hood, Koy manages to balance his natural humour with heart. While he’s naturally gifted with comedic chops, his willingness to lean into the more dramatic moments is particularly noteworthy, especially in moments with his onscreen mother, Lydia Gaston. When paired together, there seems to be a genuine connection between them that undergirds their interactions with honesty and affection.
In many ways, Easter‘s cultural edge allows it to feel more personal than many comedies. Written by Ken Cheng, what’s most interesting about the film is its recognition of the challenges facing the Filipino community in the Hollywood machine. While it shows the love within Filipino homes, Easter also leans into the opportunity to examine the struggles for recognition in pop culture. For example, although Jo feels that he represents his heritage by simply being himself, he is still asked to perform stereotypes and accents in order to find work. In these moments, Easter exposes the racial biases that the Hollywood experience and the frustration in Jo’s voice is palpable. Though, even as Hollywood’s internal biases attempt to put them in a box, Jo stands firm in his conviction of the things that matter, such as the love of his family.
Furthermore, Easter is very much a film about relationships with their parents, and accepting them in their brokenness. As a centerpiece of the film, Jo is sandwiched between generations. As the son who wishes to honour his mother, he finds himself dealing with his frustrations with her that he has carried since childhood. However, at the same time, he is also a father with a son who is disappointed in his own behavior. While he wrestles with his own role in his family, he remains oblivious to the ways in which he affects his estranged son. By reconciling with his mother, Jo gains the perspective that he needs to properly become a better father himself. The shades of perspective must be altered in order to bring the family closer together.
Silly and heartfelt, Easter Sunday makes for a fun family feast. Anchored by the delightful combination of Koy and Gaston, there’s enough love and humour at this table setting to make you feel like you’ve enjoyed your meal… even if you’re not entirely sure you need to go back for seconds.
Easter Sunday is available in theatres on Friday, August 5th, 2022