Touching Taiwanese drama about longing and loneliness from Chienn Hsiang
A fine film surely influenced by the work of Tsai Ming-liang (Vive L’Amour, The River) but that manages to steer clear of his shadow, this quiet, internally restless movie is directed by Chienn Hsiang, its camera always at the service of its sensitive protagonist.
Ling (Tsai regular Chen Shiang-chyi) is a middle-aged seamstress in a Taiwanese factory whose sewing machine breaks down and whose teenage daughter (Wen Chen-ling) disappears from home early in the film and thereafter won’t answer her phone. Her mother knows she is alive and well; spotting her daughter sitting with her boyfriend one evening in an eatery, Ling watches her offspring look at her phone while Ling repeatedly rings her and sees that her daughter is ignoring the calls. She can’t get through to her husband either, who works in Shanghai, and in time the film builds up a picture of her isolation and frustration.
These are feelings partially alleviated by caring for her hospitalised mother-in-law (Pai Ming-hua), with her situation rendered more bearable when she bonds with a patient in a nearby bed, Mr Chang (Tung Ming-hsiang), whose eyes are bandaged over. He has no visitors except for Ling, who at one point surreptitiously caresses his body with a wet cloth.
A lovely study of longing and abandonment, frayed connections and emancipatory possibilities, Exit manages to relay events from Ling's perspective while seldom relying on point-of-view shots. Instead the film maintains its distance, keeping a watchful eye over a lonely soul. By the end it not only carefully avoids sentimentality, it manages to channel some very understandable anger into a powerful conclusion, as we start to see someone with resources that have thus far barely been tapped.
Selected release from Fri 24 Apr.