Film Review: B-Side: For Taylor


Madrid-born, Korean-American director Christina Yr. Lim’s latest is a sweet family drama headed by two charismatic leads and nicely drawn, criss-crossing relationships. Sadly, dangling narrative threads, a few overcooked performances and undeveloped themes keep For Taylor firmly on the b-side.

Taylor (Jeannine Vargas) is an adopted teenager living in American suburbia, generally happy and living with her dad, Bill (Dave Huber) but struggling with the recent passing of her mother. We’re told, frequently, that she’s ‘unpredictable’, though this designation seems to arise from her violent reactions to being tormented by school bully and local Dawson’s Creek lookalike Kyle (Dexter Farren Haag), and the subsequent lack of support from the adults around her. It hardly seems surprising, then, that she acts out.

Meanwhile, Taylor has a new next door neighbour Da-young (Jacky Jung), whose family has just emigrated from South Korea. While Taylor’s late mother trained her in classical singing, Da-young dreams of being a pop star, but her strict mother, Areum (Esther Moon) is insistent that Da-Young will stick to more academic pursuits.

It’s a decent enough basis for a teen drama, if not the most original, but the film’s strongest suit is in the charisma of its young leads Vargas and Jung, who conjure an easy friendship in between balancing more fractious relationships between their parents. Less successful is the bully Kyle subplot, who arrives only when the plot needs a kick start and who vanishes completely after Taylor’s more pressing concerns over her the history of her adoption takes over.

Similarly, Da-young’s quest for stardom feels undercooked and although tangentially tied to Taylor’s skills a singer, the whole music motif never coheres with the broader thematic concerns of the film, which centre around identity and personal sacrifice. Too often, I think, B-Side doesn’t have the confidence in its characters or their relationships – which it perfectly deserves too – and so pads out the plot with unnecessary melodrama, such as Bill’s drinking problem or the aforementioned bully subplot.

Other moments, such as when Areum takes Da Young to see how much her father has sacrificed for their family can sometimes tend towards cliché but still have sufficient emotional weight to land. In the end B-Side isn’t always an entirely successful drama, but it has a sweetness and an emotional honesty that often carry it through its clumsier moments.

Christopher Machell