Movie Review: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Quite a few films have been made over the years about the deep intensity of young female friendship.
When I think of how the subject has been treated in cinema, however, my mind tends to wander in the direction of films like Single White Female and other similarly schlocky attempts to explore the almost obsessive emotional connection that can exist between women.
One of the most successful novels to deal with this theme in recent years is Lisa See’s best-seller Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, a story set in early 19th century China which traces the consequences of two girls signing a laotong pact committing them to a lifelong friendship based on “deep-heart love”. Among other things, See’s novel explores the idea of what it means to love well – without jealousy, possessiveness or mean-spiritedness – and how hard that is to achieve.
Wayne Wang’s visually beautiful film adaptation of See’s popular novel manages to capture the intense nature of female friendship without spilling over into B-grade erotic cliche. The love that develops between the story’s two main characters, Lily and Snow Flower, is platonic but it assumes the intensity and possessiveness of a destructive love affair, and the film explores the consequences that can emerge from that level of deep engagement with the life of another.