Dir: Chienn Hsiang | Dragons & Tigers | Taiwan, Hong Kong| 2014 | 94 mins
Sep 30 6:30 pm | Vancity Theatre
Written and directed by Chienn Hsiang, Exit is a slow and beautifully contemplative film that depicts a woman’s struggle to answer the existential questions that arise when the vitality of life begins to slip away, and irrelevance seeps in. The film depends on the powerful performance of Cheng Shiang-chyi, who completely immerses herself as the protagonist, Lingzi. There is little dialogue in the film as Lingzi’s life is mostly solitary, but Shiang-chyi is tremendously expressive in the nuances of her quiet character.
The catalyst for Lingzi’s existential crisis occurs when a doctor informs her that she is menopausal. Her shock is evident when she replies with alarm, “But I’m only 45!” Her biological clock has run out of minutes, and so too has her meaning in life. Lingzi’s husband works in Shanghai and her teenage daughter hardly ever comes home, with both of them ignoring her phone calls. Not only is she abandoned, but also recently laid off. The majority of the film is spent at her home or at the hospital where she takes care of her bed-ridden mother-in-law.
The potential solution to her barren life arrives when an unconscious blind man, Mr. Chang (Easton Dong) becomes a patient across from her mother-in-law. His loud and painful moaning causes Lingzi to at first console him; however, she finds that it is actually her own suffering that is eased. In taking care of the anonymous man, she is no longer another discarded woman. A tender relationship develops as Lingzi re-discovers sensuality and companionship, one gentle touch at a time.
Exit is Hsiang’s directorial debut. His previous work as a director of photography is obvious as the film is composed of clever camera angles that convey the tone of a scene. The subtle symbolism also contributes to the meaning of scenes where there is no dialogue. Exit does feel a bit long despite its 94 minute run-time, and the tango-dancing plot line could have been developed more or used more to greater effect. However, as a directorial debut, Exit is a solid film. Hsiang’s efforts come off like a compassionate love letter or an ode to women in their 40s who have been discarded by their own bodies and their society.