Set on the road to Mekong Delta, A Trip to Heaven follows 50-year-old Madame Tam as she boards a mysterious tour bus. After she settles in, she is shocked to see her former high school sweetheart sitting in the back row. Enamoured and excited, Madame Tam battles her nerves and must decide whether or not she’s going to attempt to reconcile with her long-lost love.
Directed by Ling Duong, A Trip to Heaven is a beautifully poetic piece about death that also maintains its sense of humour. Through slow, steady camera work, Duong’s short creates an atmosphere of inevitability. While we don’t fully understand where this bus tour leads, Duong never lets us forget that it leads somewhere. Although kept moving with humour, the film maintains a slow burn as it builds towards the final scene at the ‘Stairway to Heaven’.
What’s more, Heaven also emphasizes the emotional burden that we can put upon ourselves for missed opportunities. For example, as Madame Tam yearns to reconcile with her lost love, she expresses her desire to relive a piece of her past that she regrets. Approaching the end of her life, she still holds out hope that—maybe—there might still be an opportunity for long lost love. To her, this is a moment has left a hole in her soul. As a result, the chance to change her past is embedded with possibility and hope.
However, at the same time, Heaven serves as a reminder that you cannot always fix what has been done either. Sometimes, moments from our past cannot be repaired, no matter how much we yearn for them to be changed. In this way, this Trip to Heaven wants us to believe in hope for change… but also points out that it may not always be possible.
A Trip to Heaven premiered at Reel Asian Film Fest ‘21.