REVIEWS

ONE WAY TICKET 單程票 Mercilessly Captures the Psyche of a Broken Man

29 October 2019

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ONE WAY TICKET 單程票 Mercilessly Captures the Psyche of a Broken Man

Chia-Lun is a struggling salary-man who went through the loss of his first child some years ago. He struggles to get over his daughter’s death while facing a divorce with his dominant wife. Chia-Lun has now come to a crossroad, a point of no return..

Director: Chang Chih-Wei 

Cast: Chris Yang, Chang Shih-Kuan, Chang Tzu-T’ing, Ch’en Shang-Fang, Z.J Wang, Tsai Yi-Fan, Chang Yung-Ts’ao

Year: 2016

Country: Taiwan, Korea

Language: Mandarin

Runtime: 10 minutes


Directed by Chang Chih-Wei, One Way Ticket is narratively bare no thanks to its short runtime. Yet, it exquisitely captures the numbing aftershocks of a man’s solitude faced with the news of his wife’s infidelity. It is a short that relishes in the medium of film; never having to tell when it is always showing.

Throughout its 10-minute runtime, salary-man Chia-Lun stands at the crossroads between divorcing his cheating wife and working things out for the sake of their daughter. Chris Yang is very much the sole star of the short as its lead, Chia-Lun. He is not given much to say but he does succeed with setting the stage for the short. His scruffy looks, emotionless demeanour and limp movements all convey the image of a broken man, far past the intensity of heartbreak. He spends the short hovering over divorce papers, unsure if he should sign them.

What is seen as an ordinary train ride is framed by the short as a dreamlike look into the man’s psyche. Glimpses of love and solitude, innocuous gossip surrounding divorce and scandal all populate the crowded train cabin. The rumbling of the train turns into warnings from the past and imaginations of his worst fears. The ability for the short to turn these mundane elements into something intense is no small feat, and something that I admired and appreciated.

With its straightforward premise and modest production values, the cinematography of One Way Ticket does most of the work in conveying the short’s emotions. Isolation is expressed through peeks around corners, security camera footage, and uncomfortable dutch angles. Close-ups of Yang’s distant expressions forces the audience to confront Chia-Lun’s pain. It is this array of clever shots and well-constructed framing that also keeps the short incisive and interesting.

To round out its storytelling, One Way Ticket makes spectacular use of colours and sound design. The short is awash with contrasting bright hues and dull greys textured through a grainy filter, nailing its distorted, surreal feel. With these colours alluding to Chia-Lun’s muted emotions, I found it particularly difficult to watch when the only flashes of vivacity came with his imagination of his wife’s infidelity, paired with whispers of intimacy. 

While rumbles permeate the short, it is pierced by a haunting rendition of Debussy’s Clair De Lune. This comes at what I felt was the standout sequence of the short, with the humming piano piece soundtracking the train’s – and our lead’s – journey into the light at the end of the tunnel. It may not be the most subtle of expressions but I felt that it was exactly why it worked; for the daydreamy train ride to be bookended by something so familiar and clear made the short mercilessly grounded to me. 

With really only a handful of dialogue and a succinct runtime, it is a testament to One Way Ticket’s cinematography for me to feel so much out of it. Words can easily describe the joys of love and the pains of heartbreak, but are often under-equipped in expressing emotional void. How would anyone describe feeling empty and numb? One Way Ticket shows one way through the medium of film.

Check out the short here.

There's nothing Matt loves more than "so bad, they're good" movies. Except browsing through crates of vinyl records. And Mexican food.
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