Sundance 2021: ‘Marvelous and the Black Hole’ is a Magical New Interpretation of Coming-of-Age

Shortly after being featured at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2020, Marvelous and the Black Hole made its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2021. The unconventional, innovative film was written and directed by Kate Tsang, who was inspired by her relationship with her grandfather to tell this story.

Marvelous and the Black Hole follows 13-year-old Sammy (Miya Cech) shortly after her mother passes. She is miserable and acting out. Her father (Leonardo Nam) is out of ideas on how to help, so he signs her up to take summer classes at the local community college. There, she meets Margot (Rhea Perlman), a peculiar female-magician who introduces her to the art of magic, and the two form an unlikely friendship.

We have all seen our fair share of coming-of-age films about angsty teens; typically they are white centric, dealing with the seemingly inevitable issues of drugs, dating and bullying. What we haven’t seen before is a coming-of-age story quite like Sammy’s. In Sammy’s story, instead of fighting with the mean girl in school or falling in love, Sammy expresses herself by spending time with Margot, a woman far older than she, and her fellow magician friends. In one of my favorite scenes from the film, Sammy attends a “salon” hosted by Margot where the magicians practice their tricks and listen to music. While Sammy does fall in love in this story, the love is platonic.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Nanu Segal.

This particular coming-of-age plot is also distinctive because Sammy is Asian American. One way the film really taps into this side of Sammy is by having her read Chinese legends. Sammy has a book in her room she reads at night as she recalls her mother telling the same tales before she died. Not only does Sammy read these legends, but she even finds a way to incorporate them into her magic. 

These days it is so common to turn on a movie and see a character you feel like you have already seen before, but in Marvelous and the Balck Hole that is not the case. These characters will stay with you even after the film ends. First we have Sammy, who may only be thirteen, but is wise beyond her years. Sammy’s personality defies Asian American stereotypes; she often gets into fights, doesn’t care much about academics and unapologetically speaks her mind. We then have Margot, who is delightfully authentic and unafraid to be herself. From her creative magician costumes to her flower painted car, everything about Margot is utterly enchanting. She is the friend and mentor we never knew we needed. Lastly, we have Sammy’s father, Angus, who is a complicated man struggling with the loss of his wife. He is doing his best to do right by his daughters—even if he is not quite sure what that means yet. Angus may be one-of-a-kind, but he is also incredibly easy to empathize with.

The most special element of Marvelous and the Black Hole is the magic. This includes both the magic within the film as well as the magic of the film itself. Within the film, there are some spectacular tricks and of course Margot’s adorable magic bunny, Sebastian, as well. The film itself relishes the concept of magic by integrating vibrant colors and fantasy-like animation in order to portray Sammy’s thoughts and imagination. These tools symbolize an escape from the tragic, palpable reality Sammy is facing. 

Although it has not been officially announced, based on the attention this film has received, Marvelous and the Black Hole will most likely be picked up by a streaming service sometime in 2021. Be sure to stay updated, because this is a film you do not want to miss.

By Blair Krassen

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