Contributed By Dawn Seow
Melodramatic is what this period drama flick is—a lot of sad music, minimal dialogue, prolonged scenes of individuals staring at a far-away place, “artistically-shot” images and … more sad music. After sitting through it all for two hours, you leave the cinema feeling moody and in need of a large dose of hot chocolate.
Sunflower And The Secret Fan, the latest movie by Chinese-American director Wayne Wang, best known for his film The Joy Luck Club, is a movie in the same genre. It is an adaption from Lisa See’s book of the same title, which tells the story of a pair of laotongs (a relationship in ancient China whereby two girls are bonded together for eternity as kindred sisters), Snowflower (played by Korean actress Gianna Jun) and Lily (Li Bing Bing).
Set in 19th century China, the movie captures the two girls sharing life experiences like the painful process of foot binding, the pressing need to marry into good families, and the struggles that each encounter in their marriages.
The film also attempts to portray the similarities between women living in different eras through a parallel story of two 21st century Asian girls, Sophia (Jun) and Nina (Li), struggling to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in the modern day Shanghai, with a surprise appearance by Hugh Jackman as Sophia’s boyfriend.
With all the switching back and forth in between eras and Nina’s multiple flashbacks, the narrative can be challenging to follow. Watch if you are interested in ancient Chinese culture, or to see Jackman singing in Chinese.