Film Review: ‘I WeirDO’ Strikes the Perfect Balance Between Mainstream Rom-Com and Arthouse4 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
Chen Po-Ching lives in isolation because of his obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). However, his mundane life turns around when he encounters a weird girl Chen Ching, who shares the same OCD symptoms. One day, Po-Ching wakes up to find himself completely healed, posing a challenge to the perfect harmony of the imperfect pair.
Director: Liao Ming-Yi
Cast: Nikki Hsieh, Austin Lin
Runtime: 100 minutes
Written by Angela Ouyang
Upon the mention of face masks and hand sanitisers, all we can think of is probably the ongoing pandemic. However, for germaphobes Po-Ching (Austin Lin) and Chen Ching (Nikki Hsieh), these have always been parts of their daily lives.
I WeirDO is a lighthearted romantic comedy that touches on serious themes, namely mental illness, isolation and grief. In response, the witty and heart-tugging film explores the value and depth of interpersonal connection between two marginalised individuals. With its charming script, charismatic cast and thoughtful cinematography, it is hardly surprising that director Liao Ming-Yi’s debut feature film both gained commercial success and won international awards, including the 2020 London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF).
What is surprising, though, is that the entire film is shot on an iPhone XR — the first Asian feature film to do so. In this sense, Liao, who is also the writer, cinematographer and editor of I WeirDO, challenges the notion that expensive equipment is necessary for a film’s craft to be recognised. In fact, the colours and symmetry presented are so in line with the film’s narrative that it’s almost impossible to ignore Liao’s eye for precise cinematography.
This is further expressed through the director’s eye for colour and wardrobe. Due to their OCD, Po-Ching and Chen Ching have wardrobes that comprise only a few fixed colours and designs — most of the time, Po-Ching sports a teal shirt while Chen Ching dons a red sweater. The film’s high saturation, which at first serves to fit the conventions of the romantic comedy genre, becomes an effective means of setting a visual contrast between the protagonists as the film goes on. It feels as if colour has its own message to tell, highlighting how well the lovebirds complement each other while hinting at a potential conflict to come.
The film’s deliberate camerawork stands as another of the film’s strengths. The camera — which, I would like to reiterate, is an iPhone — often captures shots that hold a perfect balance between the left and right halves of the screen. The film’s seeming obsession with symmetry works hand-in-hand with its characters’ obsession with tidiness. Static shots leave the limelight entirely to Po-Ching and Chen Ching, whose synchronised interactions, for the most part, are absolutely adorable.
Speaking of adorable, it’s difficult not to be drawn into the couple’s world as the audience is slowly let into the bits and pieces of their life together. Unlike many predecessors in the rom-com genre, the film does not go out of its way to invent grand, saccharine plots. Instead, it depicts the beauty of the everyday, showing how two individuals with a common pain learn to lean upon each other.
The love between the two, who have found solace in each other, honestly makes the days following Po-Ching’s recovery from OCD quite painful to watch. It’s shocking how the mood of the film can shift as suddenly as the tables turn for the couple. From this point on, everyday life becomes a struggle. Despite some clichés, the couples’ emotions portrayed on screen feels achingly heartfelt.
Overall, I WeirDO is not the typical feel-good romantic comedy that only serves to be swoon-worthy. While I did get a good laugh or two out of it, the movie’s main appeal to me is its ability to dive deep into real and touching issues while still being a relatively easy watch. This is done through the masking of serious subjects matters and experimental film styles under the guise of a sweet love story. Thanks to the seamless blend between genres, lovers of romantic comedies may be able to get their first diluted taste of the arthouse.