'A Sun' Review
Hidden deep down in algorithms you can nowadays find even Oscar submissions from around the world and it’s rather amazing how it’s up to few brave souls, who dare to scour those streaming services, to spread the word about them. Hailing from Taiwan, director/DoP Chung Mong-hong’s A Sun (陽光普照 in Chinese), also written by him with Chang Yao-sheng, is the prime example of that as it managed to go under the radar despite winning all sorts of awards in its home country, screening at TIFF as well as being chosen to represent the country in this year’s Academy Award race. Slowly building notoriety might be even more difficult due to lengthy runtime of two and half hours but the sweet payoff is very much worth the investment, plus gorgeous framing of the camera smooths out some bumps along the way.
The metaphor behind the ’’sun’’ reveals itself later on in the movie but otherwise it takes a look inside a family of four which gets tangled with local crime action; younger son Ho (Wu Chien-ho) gets sent to juvenile detention while his girlfriend Yu (Apple Wu) has become pregnant, Ho’s mom Qin (Samantha Ko) keeps this as a secret before older son Hao (Greg Hsu) tells Ho about it and their father Wen (Chen Yi-wen) practically disowns Ho while focusing more on Hao. All of this is basically just a setup because later everyone goes on their own journey as the family dynamic is breaking down. This is also when you might be waiting for the film to accelerate since it does expand very slowly, however the way that Chung photographs the family’s rupture is breathtaking at times, notably when we follow Hao’s personal journey in the beginning.
Even looking back at the movie, you still can’t help but think if it could’ve blossomed into much more with a different structure. There is a lot of potential that is left untapped because the weird switches detach you from characters, mainly Ho and Qin, in crucial moments. Some of that trickles down to the editing too because the transitions are therefore messy and seemingly unorganised. A Sun starts to shine when we really dive into Wen, much thanks to wonderful Chen who masterfully controls every scene with another actor. A later scene between Wen and Ho at a corner shop is a great example because Chen says a million words just between his lines and hits every emotional beat that is needed. The last hour of the film is thankfully astonishing because all of the threads could’ve easily been turned into plastic sentiments about acceptance and sacrifices. Instead everything comes together during one final rainy night, explaining more could possibly spoil it so you just got to take my word for it.
Smileys: Ending, Chen Yi-wen, cinematography
Frowneys: Structure, editing
Radish? More like ra-dish with a hand in it.