Posts Tagged ‘starry starry night’

Review: Starry Starry Night

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

Starry Starry Night, the second feature film by promising Taiwanese filmmaker Tom Lin, is a visually stunning, lovely coming-of-age tale and one of my favorite films of SIFF so far this year. Based on a Taiwanese picture book by Jimmy Liao, the film takes common themes of death, divorce, and growing pains and weaves them into this beautifully imagined and creatively rendered story of Mei (Jiao Xu), a young girl dealing with the unraveling of her once-happy family and the death of a beloved grandfather whose love has been her anchor. Untethered and emotionally bereft, Mei finds a kindred spirit in new student Jie (Hui-Min Lin), a sensitive, artistic boy whose talents are unappreciated by most of the kids at school.

When Mei’s parents announce they’re getting a divorce and Jie’s mother informs him that they have to move yet again to stay a step ahead of his abusive father, the teens embark on a fantastical journey back to Mei’s safe harbor, her grandfather’s remote mountain cottage, through a world inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night and the jigsaw puzzles that serve as a symbol for both Mei’s family life and her sorting through these complicated familial issues. Along the way, Mei is accompanied by fantastical, larger-than-life, colorful carved animals – Mei’s link to her woodcarving grandfather – and the watchful shadow of a protective dragon.

My one issue with the film is the ending, which drags on a bit, although it kind of pays off; still I wanted the film to end maybe 10 minutes before it actually did, leaving things a bit more open. I loved almost everything about this film, in particular the way in which Lin composes shots with a meticulous care and attention to detail; nothing ever feels like it’s there by accident or without purpose, I could go back and watch the film a couple more times just to catch all the minute details to which the filmmaker has paid such attention. Every frame of this film feels like a painting brought to life.

Lin’s seamless and lovely use of the jigsaw puzzles as metaphor for life, which comes to fruition with an emotionally engaging sequence in which picures of Mei’s life with her parents fall apart in her hands as she desperately tries to make all the pieces fit together, is one of the best uses of symbol in storytelling I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a literal way of conveying Mei’s inner turmoil that could come across as contrived, but it’s done in such an honest and heartfelt and literary way that what could have been cheesy in a lesser director’s hands here becomes the emotional center of the film.

Note: Starry Starry Night played as a part of the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival

Critics Roundup — July 5

Friday, July 6th, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man |||Yellow|Yellow|Green
Savages |||Yellow||Green
Starry Starry Night (NY) ||||Green|
The Do-Deca Pentathlon (limited) |||Red||
The Magic of Belle Isle (limited) |||Red||
Last Ride (NY) |||Green||