Sometimes when things fall apart, they may actually, be falling into place!

starry starry night tom lin

The true way to soften one’s troubles is to solace those of others

Madame de Maintenon

Title
Starry, Starry Night (2009)
Genre
Coming-of-Age, Fantasy, Romance
Written by
Tom Shu-yu Lin 
Directed by
Tom Shu-yu Lin 
Starring
Xu Jiao, Eric Lin Hui-min
Country of Origin
Taiwan
Running time
139 minutes

oh! … brief

This film is about the loss of innocence and childhood.

Hsieh Xin-Mei is a lonely and deeply sad 13-year old girl whose only escape from the bitter reality of feeling being supplanted in the city after having spent years with her grandparents in a mountain village, is to create a fanciful world where she can stop time and even make it snow.

Consolation for Mei comes in the form of a boy (Zhou Yu Jie aka Jay Chui) she rescues from the clutches of schoolyard bullies only to understand that he is just as lonely and sad as she is, and uses his artistic nature to escape his harsh reality.

The two develop a kinship and camaraderie which crafts a space for them to live free from the drama associated with death, divorce and abuse.

oh! … talks film

The music for this film is exquisitely beautiful and at times haunting. I’d never heard of World’s End Girlfriend, a solo project of a gifted musician called Katsuhiko Maedo. The music is a blend of electronic, classical and post-rock. The score is perfectly written for this visually transcendent art film disguised as a fairy tale and complements the otherworldly elements.

The cinematography for the film was outstanding. The director, who also happens to be the screenplay writer, choreographed striking scenes that were breathtaking. The cameramen and film crew used lighting and natural earthy colours and then enhanced them to capture the attention of the audience from the very first scene at a train station where with Mei’s imagination snow drifts down from the ceiling and time is fixed. I was mesmerised and deeply entranced by the beauty as the bittersweet film story unfolded.

The screenplay is flawless and Tom Lin uses the famous painting jigsaw puzzles as an allegory for the crumbling lives of all the characters.  The completed jigsaw puzzles framed with polished surfaces a poignant reminder of bygone happy days. Tom Lin uses the strategically choreographed dance between Mei and her mother to further capture the nostalgia and is the turning point for Mei’s mother who stoically tries not to completely meltdown. It’s so realistic it’s agonising to watch.  I admired the irony in Mei’s mother scolding her husband for wearing a Santa hat to the dinner table, only to promptly follow by answering her cell and then having a minor temper tantrum and storming off. This was a clever way of presenting the breakdown in the marital relationship.

I believe Tom Lin did an exceptional job in the directing, choreography and writing for this production. The narration is simple but even with the few words expressed, the greater intent is clearly understood.  Within seconds of opening scenes, the film had gripped my attention, my senses and my heart.

I respected the casting choices for the film. They were carefully chosen to either complement or accentuate one another.

Mei’s parents are portrayed as busy, distracted individuals paying their only child little attention and are unhappy in their marriage. Mei, who is already struggling with city life, suffers painfully as she witnesses the demise of her family. She breaks from her sad reality by retreating into a fantasy world.

Jay Chui’s mother is protective of her only son and on the run from an abusive ex-husband. Jay escapes his inability to make friends and develop bonds with classmates by sketching and channelling

Mei inadvertently causes an incident that makes Jay the target of bullies, but, this incident bonds them to each other. They are kindred souls – lost in their loneliness and pain, until they find each other and cherish a few moments of happiness together.

But the happiness cannot last.

When both their realities crumble, they run off on an adventure to see the stars at Mei’s late grandfather’s home in the mountains, far from Taipei, their home city.

Xu Jiao who played Mei, no correct that, she became Mei, is a skilled actress at such a young age. Her performance from start to finish was faultless. She conveys melancholy and sadness with every pore and almost every facial expression she displays. Her current life is tinged with aching sorrow. I cried with her and for her as her heartache was so palpable, her love so pure and gentle.

Eric Lin Hui-min was exceptional as the socially inept Jay Chui. He struggled with life as his mother is constantly running and he cannot normalise his family life. Eric Lin Hui-min’s performance compelled me to grab my own fatherless 13-year old son and wrap my arms around him in a giant bear hug.  We lost his father before he was even born, so he’s never known a father’s love but understands that he misses out because of the loss. My heart ached for Jay Chui and his mother. Life can be so hard!

Harlem Yu plays Mei’s father who is visibly torn between doing right by his daughter but can’t tolerate the constant fighting with his wife. Harlem Yu was great in his role, Gentle with his daughter but increasingly frustrated with his wife. His body language exposed his emotions and sentiment.

Rene Liu as Mei’s mother was good at displaying her displeasure in her facial expressions and tone. Short-tempered and in obvious misery, she longs for happier times, which was captured in her near public meltdown after dancing in a restaurant with her daughter.

Gwei Lun-mei plays the older and happier version of Mei. While the scenes with her only last a few minutes, she did a fantastic job of carrying the story to completion.

I like that Tom Lin ended the film in an open-ended manner allowing the audience to interpret or imagine their own ending. This really appeals to me. But, I also hope that one day he might consider producing a follow-up film, but given how much time has since passed, it’s unlikely.

oh! … that’s a wrap

I cannot express in words the feelings, thoughts, and emotions evoked by this visually appealing art film. I was deeply touched by the story and experienced the pain the children suffered, but, also anticipated the hope of eventual happiness. I understood both their need for escapism and how their two fates were intertwined.

The film is without a doubt added to my list of film and drama I personally recommend and want you to watch if you haven’t already. It’s worth the time, I promise you. I’ve purchased a copy to add to my collection of classics.

You’ll enjoy this film if you appreciate the art film genre and can tolerate escapism or make-believe, which is kept to a minimum for the most part.

oh! … tidbits

Tom Lin has other great films under his belt, The Pain of Others (2005), Winds of September (2008), Wishing for Happiness (2012), and Zinnia Flower (2015). He wrote the screenplay for all except Wishing for Happiness.

In addition, Tom Lin was the cinematographer for The Peacefuland (2012) and was the songwriter behind “Little Jade” on the Spider Lillies soundtrack (2007).

This film is based on the illustrated novel Starry Starry Night by Illustrator and Writer Jimmy Liao.

In 2012, Jake Pollack won Best Cinematography at the Asia-Pacific Film festival for his work on this film.

Also in 2012, Eric Lin Hui-min, won Best New Talent at the Taipei Film Festival and the production won Best Visual Effects Supervisor at the same award ceremony.

Starry Starry Night was filmed at the Taipei Railway Station for two days in March 2011. In addition, the film was also in locations France.

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery

oh! … trailers

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