FILM REVIEW: Solo 獨奏3 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
A mother of two sons, one of them with piano talent, and the other with illness. The talented son’s piano recital day is a trip and a task for three of them.
Director: Liu Bang-Yao
Cast: Lu Yi-Ching, Wu Kang-Ren, Sunny Sun
Review by Jean Wong
As Solo (2015) begins with Jay’s (Sunny Sun) piano recital, we are immediately struck by awe at how accomplished he is. The melody of his number bleeds into our introduction to the mother (Lu Yi-Ching), who is frantically searching for her other son, Bao (Wu Kang-Ren).
Though we have yet to meet Bao, our first impression of him is already rather low, and his antics do nothing to improve it. The respective introductions of Jay and Bao are so strikingly different that the film seems to be prompting us towards favouring Jay even though it’s understood that Bao has a medical condition.
However, Solo gradually subverts this presentation to show us a warmer side of Bao. We get a sense of Bao’s adoration for his brother as they meet at his piano recital. His exuberant actions and childlike joy at seeing Jay again creates a sense of empathy and fondness in the viewer.
The shaky, unstable shots that constantly pop up whenever Solo switches to Bao’s perspective deftly reflects the instability of Bao’s condition. On the other hand, Jay’s world is a scene of serenity, which is shown by the steady shots and calming piano music constantly surrounding him. Once again, we are reminded of the vast differences between the two brothers.
Sun nimbly steps into the role of Jay and manages to put across Jay’s emotions clearly. Though Jay only briefly interacts with his family, his subtle facial expressions reveal a lot more about his attitude than his words do. Lu also adeptly portrays a mother exhausted from taking care of her ill son. Though she never once voices out her desires, the perpetual frown on her face and her weary voice is very much an evident call for a brief respite. Liu Bang-Yao artfully succeeds in translating powerful emotions like these through the characters without the use of words, as Jay and the mother both prove.
Though a short film, Solo manages to expertly create nuanced characters with its marvellous storytelling abilities. With a subversive twist, both Bao and Jay develops in unexpected ways that leaves the audience impressed.
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.