Sunday, January 24, 2010
No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti ***
Director: Leon Dai
Cast: Chen Wen-Pin, Chao Yo-Hsuan, Lin Chih-Ju, Ma Ting-Ni
How many times do you imagine the backstory behind a sensationalist piece of news?
In his sophomore film "No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti" director Leon Dai did just that, he read an article about a father who threatened to jump off a bridge with his seven year old daughter because of the way society had been treating them.
Unlike people who would've fashioned a condemning essay on unfit parenthood, Dai gave his characters the benefit of the doubt and dug into the possibility that maybe society was a contributing villain in this case too.
Therefore the movie begins with the bridge scene but soon enough takes us back in time to see what drove Li Wu-Hsiung (Wen-Pin) to risk his daughter Mei's (Yo-Hsuan) life.
He works as a diver, making underwater ship repairs and lives in an abandoned warehouse where the two of them share what can be taken for a happy life. When the time comes for Mei to go to school, her father learns that he can't enroll her because he's not her legal guardian.
He finds out that because Mei's mother, who abandoned them years before, remarried she and her husband have legal rights over the child.
Frightened by the possibility of losing his daughter, Wu-Hsiung embarks on a journey that takes him from across cities and government offices looking for a way to stay with Mei.
If the story doesn't sound precisely new, Dai's aesthetic approach gives it an odd sense of freshness: he fashions the film like something straight out of Italian neorrealism, perhaps something Vittorio de Sica would've made.
Shot in crisp black and white which forces us to concentrate on the actors' faces-even if the amount of detail in the set design is stunning-the whole movie works because of its simplicity. Shaped to be something akin to a tearjerker, the results are in fact deeper because behind the plot's straightforwardness there's a harsh criticism of a system that has forgotten kindness.
"In this economy it's hard to eat, how will you build savings?" asks someone to the concerned father as he desperately tries to look for ways to preserve his family.
The movie forces us to see beyond the fairly common melodrama and ponder on the consequences inconspicuous acts may have on someone. It would've been interesting to see Dai explore Wu-Hsiung's psychology a bit more, because he often puts more of the blame on the system than on the average man.
Dai's too innocent view of a world where it's the good people against the establishment would've worked better in post-WWII Italy, but in contemporary Taiwan with its blooming economy, the father's carelessness, comes off as something not so easy to justify.
That's why the movie works at its best when it sees the world through Mei's eyes, when other characters talk about her future as if she wasn't even there, Dai lowers his camera and reminds us that she's the one who will be most affected by the outcomes.