VIFF 2017 | A Fish Out of Water

Posted by Vinnie Yuen & filed under VIFF.

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A Fish Out of Water

Dir: Lai Kuo-an | Dragon & Tigers | Gateway| Taiwan | 2017 | 95 mins

Saturday, October 7, 2017, 3:15 PM | International Village 8

The film opens with a shot of a young boy named Yi-an wearing a brain-electrode helmet as he repeats his story. He says his home is in Toyama. He has a sister. His previous mother has long hair. They live in a house by the sea. His anxious parents watch him with concern, knowing none of these facts are true.

Yi-an’s strange accounts of his former life are not his family’s only problem. His grandfather needs full-time care. Yi-an’s father, played by actor Cheng Jen-shuo, must single-handedly run the family business, a small shop that sells steamed buns, and help his ailing father with simple but overwhelming tasks such as feeding, bathing and going to the bathroom. Meanwhile, Yi-an’s mother, played by actress Peggy Tseng, is struggling to make sales as a real estate agent. She tacks flyers to neighbourhood walls, goes door-to-door and spends hours cleaning and waiting at open houses for clients to show up. Their marriage is strained, and she eventually moves out with their son.

The stresses and burdens in their everyday life are relatable for anyone who has ever hit roadblocks in their career, given care to an elderly parent with extensive needs, experienced difficulties in their marriage, or dealt with a difficult child whom they cannot fully understand.

The film excels at conveying emotional moments. In one scene, Yi-an’s father celebrates his 37th birthday with his son and elderly father who cannot or will not eat any cake, smile in his selfies, or offer any appreciation for the occasion. Frustrated, he hurls his piece of cake in the sink.

The reason why Yi-an believes he has a former family is an enduring mystery and seems to serve more as a catalyst for delivering a poignant snapshot of family life in Taiwan. From the bustling streetscapes to a picturesque seaside village, the film will fully immerse your senses.

About Vinnie Yuen

Vinnie Yuen
Vinnie is a 1.5 generation Chinese Canadian who calls Hong Kong and Vancouver home. She likes story-telling and writing about relationships, gender and identity. Vinnie has a Master of Journalism and B.A. in English Literature from UBC.

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