Umma tells the story of Amanda (Sandra Oh) a woman of Korean descent that now lives on an American farm with her daughter Chris (Fivel Stewart) estranged from her family. When a relative (Tom Yi) brings the remains of her now deceased mother (MeeWhat Alana Lee) to Amanda’s farm, her spirit, angry at Amanda’s forsaking her duty to her and leaving, begins to the single mother and her daughter.
Written by Iris K. Shim, this is at its core a completely generic and routine haunting, elevated by being steeped in Korean tradition and a wonderfully strong performance by its leading lady. There are some spooky moments, but this story has been told many times before and better. What makes it engaging and watchable is a knockout performance by Sandra Oh as a woman haunted by her decisions and in turmoil over having lived her own life, instead of following generations of custom and duty. There is some commentary about tradition, respecting one’s family heritage and yet making your own choices, but we know how this story will ultimately end. It is worth taking the journey, however, to watch Oh give a two-dimensional character strong life, intensity and emotional depth. A perfect example of a weak script made something interesting by a veteran actress giving her all and enhancing the material. Also stars Dermot Mulroney and Odeya Rush.