Mambo Girl- -
Blending all the elements of the musical genre and the coming-of-age films, Mambo Girl tells the story of a young woman in search of a lost identity, her long lost mother who abandoned her soon after her birth.
High spirited and sweet-natured “mambo girl” Kailing (Grace Chang) is popular with her classmates, a talented singer and dancer, loves her parents and is about to turn 20.
She is also attracted to handsome Danian who plans to host her birthday party. Her happy existence is shattered however, when she discovers that she is an adoptee. Leaving her anxious family behind, and tipped off that her real mother worked in a nightclub, Kailing cruises the clubs (taking in a song by pre-Shaw Bros Mona Fong) eventually confronting a washroom attendant who unconvincingly denies her maternity. Kailing accepts her rejection and returns to the safe haven of her foster family to celebrate her birthday, glimpsed briefly though longingly, by the attendant.
More Bill Haley rock’n’roll than mambo, the film is book-ended by two high spirited song and dance numbers that demonstrate why Grace Chang was the queen of the genre and how her greatness has increased rather than diminished with time. But in between is a discourse constructed around melodramatic space that points out the class differences between Kailing’s comfortable private home, and her real mother’s public workplace. It is easy to read the film as the refugee’s acceptance of foster patriarch Hong Kong, not mother China, as home. But the foster father’s slap to Kailing, and the mother’s longing look add a note of ambiguity to the end. And the final extended dance sequence suggests that a household ruled by entertainment is in denial of reality.