“Ting Shuo” (I heard)
Lin Mei Shiu
It’s been awhile since I cried at a movie. An excellent example of when less is more.
Recent entries in Taiwanese cinema have been impressive (Cape No. 7, Secret and this year’s smash hit Monga) and now Hear Me can add itself to the list of reasons to watch Taiwanese movies. There’s nothing that new in here, but the movie is well-made enough that you think you are watching something new.
Eddie Peng is Tian Huo, a local delivery boy who meets and falls in love with Yang Yang (Ivy Chen), a girl who is working numerous jobs to raise funds to send her sister to the Deaflympics. Tian Huo is immature and not that bright, but his unconditional love for Yang Yang and the way he interacts with his parents – who clearly dote on their only son – is pleasant to watch and makes him a very likeable male lead.
The sister relationship between Yang Yang and Xiao Peng was equally engaging. Well-written and thoughtful, their relationship offers the opportunity to present revelations about the barriers that people with hearing disabilities face, such as the sisters living in a flat with basically no rooms, as deaf people prefer to be able to see everything in their surroundings. The movie never tries to fish for audience sympathy, but they get it anyway, as the way these barriers are presented in a way that is simple and unpretentious.
Hear Me reminds me a bit of Korea’s …ing, where nothing really happens in terms of plot until later in the movie, but the simplicity of the story, heartfelt performances and portrayal of Taiwan’s underprivileged urban charm is honest and genuine, which is appreciated in today’s world of brouhaha film-making. The fact that the movie manages to affect even though most of the story happens in silence (since most of the dialogue is communicated via sign language) is even more impressive.
For some reason, Asian actors are ace performers at portraying people with disabilities who use sign language (Yuko Fueki in Wuri’s Family, Julian Cheung in Return of the Cuckoo, and Fala Chen in Moonlight Resonance), and Hear Me is no exception. Michelle Chen delivers her best performance to date as the deaf Xiao Peng, although there is a bit too much head-jerking in some scenes. Eddie Peng continues to improve and he is charming, cheerful, and aw-shucks likeable as the juvenile but optimistic Tian Huo.
The big plus is Ivy Chen, who performs admirably as the timid, thoughtful Yang Yang. Her acting is infused with a total lack of pretension and raw emotions, and it also helps that she looks like she walked out of an anime production. And Lo Bei-an and Lin Mei Shiu, who portray Tian Huo’s parents, are warm and funny, and although their characters are sometimes nagging and long-winded, they clearly consider Tian Huo’s happiness their chief priority, which is refreshing.
The movie manages genuine surprise in its final act (and for once I won’t ruin it for you in this review) and because we’ve grown to care about the characters so much that by that time, something poignant, maybe even magical, is felt. All you need is love.
To Watch or Not to Watch, That is the Question
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