Ken Liu’s “Memories of My Mother” Adapted as a Poignant Sci-Fi Short Film

While you’re waiting for Ken Liu’s “The Hidden Girl” to 1) get published and 2) come to the big screen, there’s another micro-adaptation of his work for you to enjoy in the meantime. In 2012, Liu published the flash fiction piece “Memories of My Mother,” which takes less than five minutes to read but is guaranteed to have you misty-eyed in the first sixty seconds in its depiction of a dying mother who uses time dilation to visit her daughter at various points in her lifetime. And now, a production company called The Colony Media has adapted “Memories” as a 26-minute short film, Beautiful Dreamer.

The filmmakers have shared a more detailed synopsis:

Facing a terminal disease, a mother uses space travel and relativity to stretch her last two years over the lifetime of her baby daughter, visiting for only one night every seven years. Mother and daughter must negotiate to build a relationship despite the longing and estrangement that mark the moments they are able to share.

Here’s a selection from Liu’s story, to give you a sense of time and place (this is from the mother’s visit to her daughter at 17):

Later, she knocked on my bedroom door. I stayed in bed and said nothing. She came in anyway. She had crossed light years to get here, and a plywood door wasn’t going to stop her. I liked that she pushed her way in to see me and I also hated it. It was confusing.

“That’s an elegant dress,” she said. My prom dress was hanging from the back of the door. It was elegant and cost me half my savings, but I had torn it near the waist.

After a while, I turned around and sat up. She was in my chair, sewing. She had cut a guitar-shaped piece from her own silver dress and patched it over the tear in mine. It was perfect.

“My mother died when I was a little girl,” she said. “I never got to know her. So I decided that I would do something different when I… found out.”

It was strange to hug her. She could have been my older sister.

In a blog post from 2015, Liu admitted that he didn’t know what to expect when director David Gaddie approached him about adapting the story:

Well, I’ve now seen the film, and it is AMAZING. The best film adaptations strip away most of the source material and keeps only the kernel, re-presenting it in a new visual language that fully takes advantage of the medium. That’s what David has done here. There are so many things he’s added that I just love, and the effects, acting, sound, and cinematography are all top notch.

See for yourself, by checking out this impressive trailer:

Beautiful Dreamer will have its West Coast premiere at the Dances With Films festival on June 5, after which point it will hopefully appear online. Learn more about the film—and check out some great stills—at the official website.

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