Dir/scr: Cheng Yu-chieh. Taiwan. 2008. 112mins.
Using handheld camera and natural light this film about a young woman who feels like a misfit because of her dual nationality is not easy to watch. Shaky, under-exposed and mostly shot in close-up, the film generates a feeling akin to seasickness. While some will admire the chiaroscuro effect, this is strictly a specialty festival item.
Cheng’s film follows sophomore University athlete Yang Yang (Pinna), born of a Taiwanese mother and a French father she never knew. In the first sequence, her mother marries the girl’s coach who has a daughter of his own Xiao-Ru (Her). For a while, the two step-sisters bond but soon prettier Yang Yang, a top runner, not only draws the attention of model-scouting photographer Ming Ren (Huang) but also the affection of her step-sister’s boyfriend Shawn (Chang). After a short fling, she sends him packing but the damage is done and once Xiao-Ru finds out, her vengeance puts an end to Yang Yang’s athletic aspirations.
Profoundly hurt but also feeling guilty, Yang Yang leaves home and starts a modelling and acting career under the guidance of Ming Ren. Always desperate to be loved, she tries to have an affair with Ming-Ren but when he spurns her for reasons she doesn’t immediately understand, she feels even more unwanted and rejected, an outsider because of her looks and her half-French origins. It’s obvious that her father’s absence has weighed heavy on her all throughout her life.
Though the script may not always tie up all the loose ends, it offers some interesting and pertient glimpses in the maturing process of a whole generation in which many have to face Yang Yang’s problems. Rising star Sandrine Pinna, who starred in Cheng’s debut Do Over, has just the right amount of carefree charisma for the part.
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