traditional rituals for the 7th, 49th, and 100th
days after the death of a loved one provide a structure for grief and recovery.
Perhaps in some cases the extended time period might also forestall a sense of
closure, but not for Ming and Wei. They will need that time to process their
emotions in director-co-screenwriter Tom Shu-yu Lin’s Zinnia Flower (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Wave Film Festival in Santa Barbara.
Ming had not yet married her fiancé Ren-you before the accident, she does not
even have a widow’s privileges during the initial ceremony. Clearly, his
parents blame her, even though he was the one driving and apparently he was the
one at fault. At least that is how Wei sees it and the police officer taking
his statement is not about to correct him. He was driving the other car and
survived with only a broken arm, but his pregnant wife was not so fortunate.
will follow the proscribed Buddhists rituals, but they will have very different
emotional responses. Wei will tend towards rage, while Ming will struggle with
understandable depression. Ironically, they will occasionally come in contact
with each when they pray at the temple on the requisite days, but Zinnia is not about meet-cutes or the
quirky crossing of paths. Rather, it is all about the things Ming and Wei will
do to get through as best they can.
a result, there are no artificially grand moments of pay-off in Zinnia. It is a film filled with small
moments, yet we come to understand how much effort some of those moments
require of them. If it seems like Lin really understand his material that is
because he does. Sadly, Zinnia was
conceived as a means to respond to the death of his own wife and to capture the
complicated feelings experienced during the mourning period. The resulting Zinnia will absolutely rip your guts
out, but like his previous film, the deeply endearing Starry, Starry Night, it is ultimately life affirming.
Lam certainly does her share of the gut-ripping. As Ming she is exquisitely
expressive and fragile. No matter how much you think you have your guard up,
she will still absolutely demolish you. She has a surprise accomplice in Bryan
Chang who has done fine work in films like 1 Mile Above, but displays hitherto unseen depth and pathos as Ren-you’s
mournful younger brother, Ren-yi. Stone (a.k.a. Shih Chin-hang) counterbalances
them quite effectively as the angry, bitterly confused Wei. Through him, Lin
shows a side of grief we do no often see in films, but it is very real.
Lin helms with supreme sensitivity and
confidence, matched perfectly by Yu Jing Pin’s delicately arresting
cinematography. Judging from Zinnia and
Starry, Starry Night, Lin is
unquestionably one of the most talented young filmmakers on the world cinema
scene today. Frankly, it is rather baffling Zinnia
Flower has yet to be picked by an American specialty distributor, so those
in the Santa Barbara area should by all means plan to attend when it screens
this Thursday (5/12) and Saturday (5/14) during the SBIFF’s Wave Film Festival
(which is also featuring the highly recommended The Chronicles of Evil, The Laundryman, Mr. Six, Right Now Wrong Then, and
Labels: Karena Lam, Taiwanese Cinema, Tom Shu-yu Lin, Wave '16