Review of “Drifting Flowers”

 
 

Truly the most original and interesting sequence is the
middle, which first shows us the sham wedding between Lily and Yen in their
younger, happier days, when each has a gay lover and a mutual understanding of
their relationship; and later in life, when they come together again, broken,
sick and alone.

The ways in which they compromise for one another is truly
touching — it’s as if they’ve found solace in each other, long after the
initial promise of “have your cake and eat it too” has faded away. Yen
cross-dresses for Lily, making it more believable that he is Ocean. Lily cares
for Yen and his disease, offering support and solace.

The first segment is nearly as good, offering a family
melodrama framed through the eyes of a child, and it truly nails the cauldron
of emotions associated with a first crush. Meigo is an adorable, precocious kid,
and Ging is clearly doing her best to support them, but the pressure from
others and guilt about her “lifestyle” are crippling.

Serena Fang (left) with Pai Chih-ying

Ging is a very sympathetic character, and Fang plays her
with absolute honesty and fragility in what is one of the film’s best
performances.

Yi-lan is also excellent in her two sequences, portraying
adolescent angst and an assured, if unconventional, musician/lover later on.

Ironically, the sequence about the most interesting
character is the least dramatically balanced and original. While Chalkie
herself is a very likeable person — and generally fun to watch — her storyline
is so clichéd and overdone that it takes away a bit of the film’s magic. It’s
essentially a coming-out story, and while the tones of family responsibility
and expectation ring just as loud as they do in the other sequences, it’s still
a tired plotline.

Chao Yi-lan

This occasional tendency to dip into cliché is Drifting Flowers’ greatest shortcoming.

The characters are two-dimensional, and more than a few
stereotypes are visited before the credits roll. This is unfortunate, as the
script really calls for a character-driven piece — viewers will find themselves
wanting much more in terms of character detail, and many will be frustrated by
the broad strokes of the storytelling. Similarly, the acting is very
hit-or-miss, with some actors giving nuanced performances (the aforementioned
Fang and Yi-lan are excellent), and others over-acting to the point of
melodrama.

It’s not the most polished affair in the world, but Drifting Flowers has an undeniable,
dreamlike charm. Director Zero Chou is still refining her voice and her vision,
though the film is certainly evidence that she’s on the right track.

The film is worth watching for it’s portrayal of
still-forbidden love and the compromises that surround it in a culture that is
decidedly underrepresented in the lesbian oeuvre (modern China), and for
its well-paced storytelling.

Watch the trailer for Drifting Flowers:

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