A Beautifully Composed Indie Film
Competently acted and dripping in aesthetic splendor, Taiwanese Netflix Original Dear Ex is a character driven examination of our attitude toward relationships. With a split focus between 3 predominant characters, lingering shots and deliberately timed bites of dialogue does make the film feel more slow paced than it perhaps should. Despite its flaws, Dear Ex makes for an artistic and absorbing watch nonetheless.
The film begins with the crux of the drama as outraged mum Sangilan unleashes an explosion of anger at free-spirited male “mistress” Jay. It turns out after her husband passed away, he left his insurance money and possessions to Jay and what ensues is a bitter rivalry between the two. Caught in the middle is our narrator and main character, Sangilan’s son, Song Chengxi.
While the early moments of the film do well to set the mood and tone, it’s not until Song decides to move in with Jay that our preconceptions of these characters are challenged. What follows is a slow-paced, painful journey of acceptance, love and familial ties as our three characters grow and evolve over the course of 90 minutes or so. For the most part, the story plays out well, with an equal emphasis on Jay and Sangilan as well as how Song deals with being caught in the crossfire. There’s a good chunk of time dedicated to Jay’s background too and through flashbacks we learn of his relationship with Sangilan’s husband after the tumultuous exchanges between him and his wife.
While the plot itself is relatively straight forward, a stylistic flair is added to the picture with mixed results. At times it does feel a little overbearing and takes away some of the dramatic weight to certain scenes. Other times it works harmoniously with what’s on screen as a subtle blend of dreamy, blurred colours slowly come into focus as we switch back to present time. It’s little moments like this that work really well but other times the aforementioned lingering shots make this more slow paced than it perhaps should be.
Still, despite these flaws, Dear Ex is a beautiful little Indie film and one that tackles a really important subject. Powerful themes around love and family run strongly throughout the film and the final shot encapsulates this as strongly as the first. It’s not perfect but it is well made so for that alone, this Taiwanese film is worth a watch.