Michelle Zauner, the Japanese Breakfast frontwoman and New York Times-bestselling author, has tapped Will Sharpe to direct the film adaptation of her 2021 memoir Crying in H Mart. While Sharpe is perhaps best known in the US as the (initially) mild-mannered Ethan Spiller in HBO hit The White Lotus, he has been recognized with numerous BAFTA nominations for his work as a director in the UK.
Crying in H Mart tackles Zauner’s relationship with her mother and her Korean American identity. Much of the book takes place in Eugene, Oregon, where Zauner grew up and then returned while her mother battled cancer. The Oregon native will adapt the book into a screenplay herself, and her band will handle the movie’s soundtrack.
In a public statement, Zauner says Sharpe’s previous work, specifically Flowers and The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, illustrate his ability to balance vulnerability and humor, qualities the author hopes to translate onto the screen in her own work. Zauner writes:
It was a daunting task, to find someone I could trust with the retelling of such a personal story. Someone who could honor my mother’s character and respect the darkest days of grief, and still make the coming of age of a half-Korean artsy outsider in a small Pacific Northwest hippie town seem real and cool.
In that spirit, I am so relieved to have found Will Sharpe and am beyond delighted that he will be the director of Crying in H Mart. I believe his sensitivity, as a director and an actor, and his own personal experience, having grown up between two cultures, will be tremendous assets.
In an interview with People, Sharpe echoed her sentiments, noting his own personal connection to Zauner’s memoir. “There were lots of things that resonated with me as somebody who is half-Japanese, half-British, spent my childhood in Tokyo,” he said. “Some of the descriptions of being jet-lagged in your family’s kitchen felt very familiar to me.”
Sharpe also explicitly noted the important role food plays in the book, and how the book’s descriptions of Korean dishes reminded him of his own memories of Japanese 7-Elevens and his mother’s dumplings. “I found that it felt universal in its specificity,” Sharpe told People. “In that it’s so lovingly detailed about the experience of growing up around Korean food and the cooking of Korean food.”