Margaret In ‘Expats,’ Explained: Why Was Margaret Optimistic About Finding Gus?

Lulu Wang’s Expats throws light on the people living in Hong Kong and the kind of culture shock they face upon meeting the locals. These expats are Americans and British of various descents who come to live in this megacity of Southeast Asia and try to co-exist in a community that has a different understanding of family and what constitutes it.


Margaret and Clarke, who had been living in Hong Kong for a while, are dealing with a certain tragedy that rocked their world. Margaret and her husband Clarke are rich and live in a posh apartment complex surrounded by people of good financial standing as neighbors who belong to different parts of the world. Unlike others, Margaret and Clarke chose not to deal with the pain the right way. The couple had lost their toddler son, Gus, in a crowded market, and the person responsible for it was a woman Margaret had been considering hiring as a nanny.

Margaret was struggling to meet like-minded people in Hong Kong and was tired of hearing about the women aspiring to be nothing more than home runners and wives. She longed to have a career, but she hardly received any encouragement in that regard. People, including Clarke’s parents, expected her to run the household while Clarke brought in the money.


Margaret was raised in a society that expects women to financially support the family and make an identity for themselves. She was tired of being tagged as a mother and wife and wanted to pursue her lifelong passion to be a landscape architect. Her life in Hong Kong had stagnated, and at this juncture she met Mercy, a young Korean-American girl she began to get comfortable with.

As a mother, though, she was the typical one who wanted the kids to be attached to her. She was slightly jealous of their maid and nanny, Essie, as her younger son, Gus, was getting closer to her. Margaret, who claimed to have second thoughts about having a third child, had a change of heart the moment Gus was given to her after the birth. Margaret was a typical parent figure who always remained on high alert and had strong instincts, which she believed were lacking in Hillary and Mercy. Margaret could not help but advise her upstairs neighbor Hillary to give motherhood a chance, as the latter was having second thoughts.


Margaret’s life went through an upheaval when Gus got lost in a crowd, never to be found. There could not be any criminal charges against Mercy, because it was not an intentional incident. The event changes the course of Margaret’s life because she begins to fixate on many things that could lead her to any information about Gus. She felt the police were incompetent, and questioned everyone around her and their efforts to seek Gus. Margaret felt she was alone in the crusade to find her son and refused to leave Hong Kong until she received any definite answers. She began to separate herself from the family, but she was putting up a facade that everything was okay. Clarke and herself were not on speaking terms, and she did not spend as much time with her children, Philip and Daisy.

Margaret was hell-bent on telling the world they were fine ever since the incident, but her frequent meltdowns are a sign of her deteriorating state of mind. Apart from that, as a mother, she was in denial and constantly looking for bizarre clues that built connections to Gus’ disappearance. All this defines Margaret as being paranoid and far from her normal self, and her behavior affected her family more than she could imagine. Margaret was not willing to speak to any counselor to deal with the tragedy. This was evident when she, along with Clarke, were called to a morgue outside of the city to identify a boy who could be Gus. During the time they were asked to wait, Margaret, as a mother and a wife, had no plan B for herself if the body was Gus. Margaret had reached a point in her life when she could pinpoint and reprimand Clark for his resorting to faith and church, but she never processed the pain the right way. She had rented an apartment in the city just for herself and spent some time away from the noise around the house.


As the lady of the house, she could not help but feel helpless, with no leads that could take her towards Gus. Before Gus’ disappearance, Margaret couldn’t wait for her family’s big move to the United States. Margaret and Clarke came from the USA, and going back was a homecoming for them, and finally they could begin their lives as one big family. After Gus’ incident, Margaret dropped the idea of moving away to a far-off country. She believes Gus is still out there, and leaving Hong Kong would mean abandoning their youngest child. Clarke and Margaret were rich and influential, and their demands would have some impact on the officials while they were in the country. She was sure the police would abandon the search for Gus the moment the family was out of Hong Kong.

Margaret’s mind went through its ups and downs, a trajectory that is very difficult. She went through a journey that no one could understand, including Clarke and her best friend Hillary. In her desperate effort to find Gus, she ended up losing a lot of people close to her; Hillary was one of them. Margaret and Hillary hadn’t been friends anymore since the latter’s husband David’s involvement in Gus’ disappearance, which further damaged their friendship. Margaret, in haste, decided to move to America with her family, but her instincts asked her to stay back. 


During her meeting with Mercy, which was arranged by her to attain some closure, she realized Gus was her family and she wanted to stay back. She loved her family, but her daughter began to question where her loyalties lay. Daisy was livid at Margaret for fixating on Gus and losing track of the lives of Philip and Daisy in that process. 

Philip, Clarke, and Essie were ready to understand Margaret’s desperation to find Gus while Daisy chose to remain furious, but the others knew Margaret would find her back home and they would be waiting for her. Margaret, despite everything going through post-Gus’ disappearance, it was hard to judge her. She took all these steps as a mother, and every human being like her is allowed to make mistakes. Just like any other parent figure, she was never going to give up.


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

Latest articles