teenaged Xiao Yang is not exactly Cyrano de Bergerac. Nevertheless, he will do his best to recycle
both love letters and lovers. The course
of true love never runs smooth, but he will sometimes help it along in Hsu Chao-jen’s
multi-character rom-com, Together (trailer here), which screens
this Saturday during the 2013 Asian American International Film Festival.
up his classmate’s discarded love letter, Xiao Yang is determined to put it to
good use. Perhaps his buddy Ma Chih-hao
can re-purpose it. Having just dumped
his girlfriend, Ma pines for the cute cashier working at their favorite bakery,
whose manager in turn nurses a crush on Xiao Yang’s older sister. Of course, she is already involved with a
rich jerk, who does not think much of Xiao Yang.
this is the sort of film where viewers could use a flowchart to keep track of
who like whom. However, his parents’
relationship is easy to pick-up on. The magic has left the easy going Bin’s
marriage to more assertive Min-min.
Ironically, the print shop proprietor soon finds himself producing
wedding invitations as his own marriage takes a chilly turn. The free-spirited Lily has recently returned
to their Taipei neighborhood to marry Haru, the staid owner of the local
Japanese bookstore. Yet, the strangely
ambiguous chemistry between her and Bin is still there.
all the romantic confusion, the tone of Together
is much more bittersweet than cutesy.
In fact, for domestic audiences, it is downright nostalgic, given the
casting of Kenny Bee and Lee Lieh as Xiao Yang’s parents, who were amongst the
break-out co-stars of the classic melodrama The
Story of a Small Town. Of course, it is all headed towards a happy place,
but there are more surprises and less sentimentality in the third act than one
Huang Shao-yang’s Xiao Yang grows on viewers over time, as his character starts
using his brattiness for good rather than ill.
His presence somewhat suggests a young Taiwanese Leonardo DiCaprio,
except he is already considerably more manly (as is everyone else in the
cast). Bee remains charismatic in middle
age, nicely crooning the film’s signature love song. Supermodel-actress Sonia
Sui lights up the screen as Lily, while developing some reasonably believable
chemistry with the significantly older Bee.
Lee Lieh also does her best to punch-up Min-min, despite her somewhat problematic
Indeed, Hsu definitely favors Bee’s Bin over the
rest of the large ensemble. Still, he invests the film with a forgiving vibe
that is rather endearing. His unhurried
pace might be a bit too languid for slavishly conventional viewers, but Hsu has
a good eye for composition and Blaire Ko’s slightly latin-ish score helps it all
go down quite smoothly. Recommended with
a fair degree of affection for those who enjoy slightly offbeat love stories
and family dramas, Together screens
this Saturday (7/27) at the New York Institute of Technology, as part of this
Labels: AAIFF '13, Movie Romance, Sonia Sui, Taiwanese Cinema