Review: Becoming Who I Was meanders until its powerful conclusion

Documentary about a child monk and his mentor/servant’s journey to a Tibetan monastery is worth the trek

BECOMING WHO I WAS (Moon Chang-Yong, Jeon Jin). 95 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (June 15). See listing. Rating: NNN

In a lot of ways, Becoming Who I Was is everything a documentary shouldn’t be – it’s unfocused, overlong and questionably indulgent of its subjects, the child monk Angdu Padma and his mentor and servant Rigzin Urgain. Angdu is believed to be a Rinpoche – the latest incarnation of a long-dead monk – and Rigzin has dedicated himself to the care and spiritual development of his former master.

But it’s worth sitting through the film’s meandering first hour – which observes Angdu and Rigzin in their village in northern India – to get to the genuinely powerful final movement, in which the pair undertake a long, dangerous journey to a Tibet monastery in the hope that Angdu will be able to reclaim his place there. 

And suddenly Becoming Who I Was feels stripped down to essential moments of understanding and feeling, as the wizened Rigzin does his best to keep his young charge safe, comfortable and innocent of the larger world. 

It doesn’t necessarily validate the choices co-directors Moon Chang-Yong and Jeon Jin made beforehand – yes, a little boy cooking noodles is an adorable sight, but we don’t need to see him do it in real time – but it does make their film worth watching.

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