“Hi Mom!” A Movie Celebrating the Most Important Women in Our Lives

This newest Chinese movie "Hi Mom!" is the perfect film for #Women'sMonth. Why? Because it reveals the bittersweet relationship we often have with our mothers.


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Screenshot from the Movie; main leads Jia Ling and Zhang XiaoFei

Every woman was once a girl. Every mother was once a child. Yet how many of us have seen them in their adolescence?

From the moment of our birth, the woman in the delivery room became a mother. And this identity came to us in lieu of her identity as daughter, wife, or friend.

And that’s all we really know her as. She is there with the sizzling of the saucepan, the smell of tomatoes or detergent, and her arms against our skin.

We grow up knowing there’s a harbor called home. It is a place we can run back to when adulthood gets too rough to bear.

But somehow, as time goes on, Mom gets older. And we never get to know who she was before she became a mother.

Official Movie Poster; main leads (left to right) Shen Teng, Zhang XiaoFei, Jia Ling, Chen He

But What if We Got that Chance?

Every year over spring break, there is a scuffle in the film industry to see who comes out on top. This year, after a particularly competitive struggle, the winner has emerged.

“Hi, Mom” or 你好,李焕英  (nǐ hǎo, lǐ huàn yīng), swept up the country in a rage. China’s famous  comedian Jia Ling created the film after her own life.

The beginning of the movie is based on her own story. The protagonist, Jia XiaoLing is a play on Jia Ling's name. Growing up, she desperately wants to make her mother proud. 

Yet, the reality was often the opposite. Chubby and at the bottom of the class, it seemed that she was only capable of “losing face” for her family.

Screenshot from the Movie

However, right after she goes to university, tragedy strikes. Her mother, Li HuanYing, is fatally wounded in a car accident. 

This is where reality and film diverge. In “Hi, Mom,” XiaoLing magically gets transported back to 1981, a year before she was born. 

In other words, she gets to see what none of us will ever see—her mother as a flowering young adult. 

The rest of the movie has many twists and turns. This becomes her  last chance to make her mother proud. Thus, XiaoLing tries her best to  intercede with fate. 

This results in a hilarious and tear-jerking film about love, regret, and most of all, family.  

We Are All Li HuanYing

After the release of the film on February 12, the internet exploded with the hashtag #这是我的李焕英 or “This is My Mother.” People began posting old photos online. Newspapers even collected submissions to commemorate “our own Li HuanYing.”

Official Weibo of ZhengZhou's Publicity Department, asking for online submissions; Caption: "Hello, This is My Li Huanying"

Photo that was anonymously submitted; Caption: "My mom is a lantern, warming me and giving me hope!"

All reflected on their relationships to their mothers: familiar yet mysterious. Although our moms raised us, we never know what she was like before motherhood. 

In fact, many people spend years running away from their mothers. They can only see the scolding and lectures that seemed so unbearable when we were young.

Until one day we travel the world and find that it’s too big and too wide without a mother's arm around our shoulders. Until we’ve eaten all the cuisines to find that all we really want is the sizzling of the saucepan.

Photo featured on People's Daily; Caption: "My mom is the most beautiful mom in the world!"

Photo featured on Weibo commemorating policwomen; Caption: "This is my Li HuanYing!"

March is the month for women. Not all women are mothers, but most mothers are women. 

So tell her how you feel. Your very own Li HuanYing.


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Emilie Zhang

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