The Motel (film)

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The Motel
Directed by Michael Kang
Written by Michael Kang
Starring Jeffrey Chyau
Sung Kang
Jade Wu
Samantha Futerman
Music by Nathan Larson
Distributed by PalmPictures
Release date
Running time
76 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $250,000

The Motel (2006) is the debut feature from director Michael Kang. The film won the Humanitas Prize in the Sundance Film Festival category, and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature.

It is based on the novel Waylaid by Ed Lin.


Thirteen-year-old Ernest Chin's life is devoted to working at his family's hourly-rate motel, where a steady stream of prostitutes, johns, and various other shady characters come and go. Abandoned by his father, he lives with his mother, grandfather, and younger sister Katie. The film is a loosely assembled series of vignettes examining the difficulty of adolescence. Recurring themes include painful encounters with a bully named Roy and Ernest's persistent feelings of being misunderstood by his family. Ernest also blindly explores his incipient sexuality, which includes nursing a crush on Christine, an older girl who works at a Chinese restaurant nearby. Ernest's life changes after he meets the newest guest at the motel: a self-destructive yet charming Korean-American man named Sam Kim (Sung Kang), who is caught in a downward spiral after estrangement from his wife.


The Motel was met with critical acclaim and particular praise went to Michael Kang's directing. The film scored a rating of 87% on the review-aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes based on 31 reviews.[1]

Bob Longino of Atlanta Journal-Constitution liked the film and wrote, "There is honesty and integrity in the filmmaking and the performances, which make The Motel among the best character studies of the year."[1]

Elizabeth Weitzman from New York Daily News said that the Motel is "Unlike so many indie films, Michael Kang's gently empathetic debut embraces eccentricity without drowning in its own hip irony."[1]

V.A. Musetto of the New York Post exclaimed in his review "Kang makes an impressive feature directorial debut with The Motel. But the person to keep an eye on is Jeffrey Chyau, a student at the Bronx High School of Science, who is a delight in the lead role."[1]

Stephen Holden of the New York Times wrote in his positive review that "Michael Kang's small, perfectly observed portrait of a Chinese-American boy captures the glum desperation of inhabiting the biological limbo of early adolescence."[1]

Joey Leydon at Variety magazine said of the film, "Indie coming-of-age dramedy about a precocious Chinese-American youth whose family operates a sleazy roadside motel signals arrival of a singularly promising filmmaker." and ended with comparing Kang's directing to acclaimed Indie directors Francois Truffaut and Frank Whaley saying "Writer-director Michael Kang covers familiar territory mined memorably by auteurs ranging from Francois Truffaut to Frank Whaley."[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e "The Motel". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  2. ^ [1] The Motel Film review, Variety Magazine. Last accessed: March 26, 2014.

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