Disney-Pixar's "Bao" just took home the Oscar for Best Animated Short film. Pixar describes the eight-minute film, directed by Chinese-Canadian animator Domee Shi, like this: "An aging Chinese mom suffering from empty nest syndrome gets another chance at motherhood when one of her dumplings springs to life as a lively, giggly dumpling boy."
There are many things in the film that speak to the Chinese experience such as the specific food, the details of the home, and the overprotective mother. But, the film also speaks to the universal experience of being a mom.
If "Bao" has you wanting to see the film but you haven't had a chance to do so, I don't want to give too much away. I will say this: I fully understood the mom in the film, particularly because of the ages of my children. The circumstances under which I saw "Bao" made the message of the short film incredibly poignant for me.
"Bao" was shown before last summer's "The Incredibles 2." When the original "Incredibles" was released, my sons were 2 and 5. We loved the movie and watched it over and over again. My boys had "Incredibles"-themed birthday parties, Halloween costumes and pajamas. When we went to Disney World, we hunted down the costumed characters to get a family photo with them.
When I took my sons to see "The Incredibles 2" last summer, they were 16 and a few weeks shy of 19. We saw the sequel on vacation at a drive-in movie theater in upstate New York. There I was, enclosed in my Prius with my now very big boys, watching this animated mother struggle as her dumpling grows up, become an incredibly surly, ungrateful teenager, and then ....
I can't tell you what happens next. I won't be giving away too much, though, by saying that it represents the universal conflict that most mothers of teens and young adults feel because they want their children to go back to being little ones while they simultaneously want them to launch their adult lives.
Letting go is hard. If you've ever been a mother — or if you've ever had a mother — you'll understand the power of "Bao."