FILM REVIEW: she & him 雁雁3 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
“Like wild geese flying together, we will be with each other for the rest of our lives and never ever separate.” During the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1996, Ma and Ping were a young couple deeply in love, yet their relationship started to change with the birth of their daughter Yen-Yen.
Director: An-Ching Yang
Cast:Wan-Ru Zhan, Leo Huang
Runtime: 25 min
Review by Leon Lau
Like a family album with missing photographs, she & him (2018) is a moving love story that invites you to fill in the blanks.
Love stories generally follow a pretty strict formula. The couple either gets together, or they don’t. After a series of trials and tribulations, the audience typically arrives at one of two given conclusions. Romantic films like these live and die on this push and pull dynamic, but she & him has much deeper questions at heart, and instead asks, can love truly last forever?
Honeymoon period is over for our protagonists Ma (Leo Huang) and Ping (Wan-Ru Zhan).With a newly born daughter in their lives, Yen-Yen, it’s time for them to face adulthood and grow from simply being lovers to becoming responsible parents.
Can we care for our children with our current income? Are we growing apart as time goes on? These are the questions that plague the thoughts of Ma & Ping as our protagonists ponder their future with uncertainty. “There’s no forever. One of us will die first right?” The film veers on melancholia, by focusing on the reality of what it means to be a couple in the long run. It makes for some heart wrenching moments that feels all too real because of how relatable their everyday struggle is.
Strong acting from our leads helps to drive the film forward. Wan-Ru Zhan and Leo Huang have incredible chemistry with each other, and convincingly sell the highs and lows of their marriage. They are able to sell the honeymoon, cutesy period, but can also portray fight scenes with plenty of venom and spite.
What makes this more than just a turbulent love story, is the way the story is told. Right from the start, the narrative constantly flits between past and present during key moments of their lives. Without spoiling anything, this heightens the sense of nostalgia to a powerful degree. Seeing how the passage of time affects our characters is one of the more unique aspects of the film, and director An-Ching Yang uses time jumps to add ambiguity to their relationship.
The film also has a poetic quality because of how well shot and crafted it is. Shot in a gorgeous 4:3 aspect ratio, there is a tighter composition to the visuals that adds to the “boxed in” nature of the film. The editing style also helps to compliment the visuals nicely as she & him lingers patiently on quiet, emotional moments, but becomes erratic and chaotic to reflect the characters’ state of mind. It’s a jarring but effective way to break up the pacing, and only adds to the unpredictable tone of the film.
The melancholic tone of she & him might not appeal to everyone, but like the best of films, it has something genuine to say and isn’t afraid to explore difficult subject material. And By focusing squarely on the couple, we get to experience an extremely intimate and moving look into the ups and downs of love.
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.