FILM REVIEW: Blossom 繁花盛開
On her way to the club, Cherry, a drag queen, discovers an abandoned baby and decides to bring it with her to work. Later, she and her close colleague Lena discover something strange about this baby, and this leads to an unexpected adventure that night, which makes Cherry confront herself and re-examine her sense of belonging.
Director: Han Lin
Cast: Ming-Shuai Shih, Yu-Jie Cheng
Language: Mandarin, Taiwanese Hokkien
Review by Jean Wong
Blossom (2017) follows a drag queen on a night of great change for her. Made in 2017 when Taiwan was reviewing its marital laws, the film attempts to highlight the discrimination faced by same-sex couples and other similar minority groups. Though the constitutional laws allow same-sex couples to register as partners, they are still not granted the same rights as married couples. Through Cherry’s (Ming-Shuai Shih) story, Blossom explores the impact of such policies on its citizens and their familial relationships.
Amidst the principal storyline where Cherry stumbles across an abandoned infant is the underlying argument she has with her boyfriend about having “a real family”. As though a manifestation of society, the boyfriend’s belief that Cherry is unable to give him a “real family” reflects that of society and the government, where same-sex marriages are till this day not yet legal in Taiwan due to opposition from conservative groups.
Having just had a fight with her boyfriend, Cherry gets ready for work with a sullen expression. However, her whole demeanour changes the moment she notices the abandoned baby and her protective instinct for the child surfaces in multiple instances. Throughout the film, Cherry’s care does not stop with the baby but extends to others as well as she constantly puts them first. Despite the escapades she faces throughout the entire night, she manages to take care of the baby — as well as her friend — showing that she is more than capable of raising a family against all societal expectations. In this way, Blossom uses the intricate and endearing character of Cherry to provide subtle commentary on the topic.
From Cherry’s encounter with the infant to police intervention to a robbery scene, director Han Lin encapsulates the abnormality and surrealness of these incidents. Yet, she manages to portray this surrealness as a typical night for Cherry, balancing the two aspects evenly. Both Shih and Cheng, who play Cherry and Lena respectively, deliver a believable performance not just of drag queens, but of drag queens with human issues such as love troubles or addiction.
As morning light breaks out over the horizon, we see a new Cherry who has now learnt how to put herself first in situations where it truly matters. The hopeful conclusion to the film perhaps mirrors the director’s aspirations for the future of Taiwan’s societal attitudes towards the queer community. Blossom further delves into the discomfort of such a topic by focusing on drag queens in Taiwan as the primary characters, giving them a voice and representation in the media.
About Kaohsiung Shorts
高雄拍 (Kaohsiung Shorts) aims to make Kaohsiung the Taiwanese short film base, to discover and showcase new short films that break the norms, boundaries and stereotypes through the use of media. Started in 2012 by the Kaohsiung Film Archive, Kaohsiung Shorts is a short film grant that aims to encourage film talents to be based in Kaohsiung and be inspired by the city. Films created under this programme will be having their Taiwan premiere during the Kaohsiung International Film Festival. Since 2015, short films created under the Kaohsiung Shorts have been showcased in other countries such as Hong Kong, France, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.