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How “Death And Ramen” Delivers Love & Loss Through Noodles

The story of a ‘divine ’bowl of ramen

By Jay KobayashiPublished 4 months ago 4 min read

Life, loss, and noodles. These are all the defining characteristics that will get you hooked in Tiger Ji’s second film, Death and Ramen. Death and Ramen is a short film written and directed by rising-filmmaker Tiger Ji. In his second movie, he crafts a dark comedy that explores themes of mortality and mental health all within the span of fourteen minutes. While fourteen minutes isn’t a lot of time to tell a compelling narrative, Ji manages to delivers an emotionally charged gut punch that reflects a story in the Asian American experience.

What Is “Death and Ramen” About?

Death and Ramen follows Timmy Lee, a ramen chef (played by Bobby Lee) who commits suicide one night and meets the Grim Reaper(played by Matt Jones). After learning that he is on his way to the aftermath, Timmy convinces the Grim Reaper that he needs to eats a bowl of kimchi ramen before he passes. The two then go on an unintended late night adventure where they learn what it means to be human.

Is “Death And Ramen” Good?

Death and Ramen is a short and simple film that beautifully brings out genuine conversation and emotionally charged moments all within a blink of an eye. Bobby Lee and Matt Jones brought a sense of charm and light-hearted humor that could have easily turned this film towards a different direction, but Tiger Ji manages to guide these constitutionally funny actors in a way that breaks their usual type casting.

Bobby Lee’s performance in particular is one of the biggest highlights as he gives a performance that pulls the heart strings of its audience that makes them want to call their parents right after. This is all in lieu of the film’s writing which is filled with symbols and themes that can easily be overlooked.

What Are The Main Themes Of “Death And Ramen”?

While the movie largely portrays existential themes such as mortality and the human experience, the movie is described as a heartfelt tribute to the enduring spirit of life. Throughout the movie, we see Timmy go through an emotional rollercoaster that consists of intervals of existential despair and childlike delight. This constant journey of ups and downs is the defining aspect of being human and one of the central themes of the film.

“I have come for you… and I guess some ramen too.” | Credit: Death and Ramen

When the Grim Reaper says “So this is what it feels like… being alive.” at the end of the movie, he understands how beautifully conflicting it is to be alive. From eating childhood eating ramen during one of your darkest nights to finding joy in watching the sun rise, the human experience is a chaotic journey where you never know where you end up.

The Meaning Behind The Ramen

The kimchi ramen is a prominent symbol that helps convey these existential themes, because it serves as a meaningful source that unveils vulnerability and childlike delight. Ramen is categorized as comfort food and the nature of comfort food is characterized by their familiarity, simplicity, and the positive emotions they evoke when consumed.

Comfort food also reflects a person’s cultural background and heritage. It can symbolize cultural pride and identity, connecting people to their roots. In fact, one of the biggest themes in Death and Ramen was its commitment to tell a story from the Asian American experience.

“This ramen looks ‘divine’.” | Credit: Death and Ramen

The kimchi ramen was the symbol of Timmy’s sole source of happiness and contention, because it was the childhood dish that his mother made for him every Sunday. The meal was so meaningful to him that he modeled his career chasing after that moment in his past. The bowl of ramen also became the only means where he can talk to his mother and apologize for all the times they fought.

Acts of service is prominent method of conveying love and appreciation in Asian American households. Anyone who has ever told their parent about a snack they like only for them to come back with a bulk sized bag of it a day later can understand the genuine attempts of parents trying to convey their love to their kids. Death and Ramen showcases how acts of service like this comes in full circle where the child gives the parent the one thing that makes them nostalgically reminiscence their love and respect for each other. As a result, Lee’s performance in the scene makes the film’s audience realize the true meaning of acts of service in Asian American culture.

Where Can I Watch “Death And Ramen”?

Death and Ramen is free to watch on YouTube and the film has its World Premiere at the 2023 edition of the Palm Springs ShortFest. The film has earned universal praise for its storytelling and cinematography, and stands as a breath of fresh air in the genre of short films.

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About the Creator

Jay Kobayashi

A starving writer from LA who aspires to be plagiarized one day. I like to write about academic pieces that identifies philosophy and psychology in pop culture, and sometimes random fun pieces that interests me or the algorithm!

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