H.A.G.S Have A Good Summer (2021) – REEL Review

Director: Sean Wang | 9mins | Documentary, Short

Filmmaker Sean Wang reminisces about high school and flicks through his 8th grade yearbook, calling his old friends – many he hasn’t spoken to since 2008.

Now released as a New York Times Op-Ed documentary, director and producer Sean Wang uses his wave of nostalgia to find a brief but insightful story in catching up with old school friends – but it explores more than just awkward small talk after years of not seeing one another.

Each person he speaks to is represented by their 8th grade yearbook photo, snippets of the conversation highlighted with text stylized to look hand drawn. It’s a nice touch that gives the feel of the yearbook itself being animated, and as the film is about someone from now reminiscing with old friends it’s essentially doing the same, but visually.

There’s two old classmates that most of the film centres around, Fahad Manzur and Way Chen. Though it starts as a casual conversation H.A.G.S starts to split into two themes; reflection on their lives, comparing themselves now to where they thought they would be back then, but also the more serious note of being a second generation immigrant, the three of them all having very different backgrounds. There’s an interesting discussion of the difficulties of school and how or if things have changed much since then. 

It isn’t a heavy film to watch however, though there are more serious notes Wang decides to keep tone mostly light and easy watching, likely meaning more people are going to be able to relate. Though by no means a deep dissection of reminiscence or ageing after high-school, it’s a great little story many of us would consider or wonder about, but never get around to doing. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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