The family may (or may) not speak another language than you do, and they may or may not have a different color skin, but this family is the 21st family complete with the joy of a young child throwing water balloons off of buildings; a loving husband who loves his wife enough not to cheat on her with an old flame, yet wonders what might have been; a wife lost in depression and lack of purpose, a grandmother's death, a wedding, and a mall with a food court with lonely teenagers trying to connect, two of which do, and yet don't.
There is something in this film I can describe only with one word: humanism. No, I can't relate every actors name, but when I saw this film years ago, and I was stressed out, I went to a theater in another to see it, and after the three hours -- which flies by like a summer breeze -- I saw real people both on the screen and in the theater. It's a relaxing, human film, well worth the time to rent or screen for another time.
Sadly, the director of this film left this life too prematurely, but he and everyone associated with this film left us a real family and the joy of being human, despite all our faults, and all of life's cruelties, in a film set in a corporate world with lots of reflecting, cold windows (one of the recurring images of the films) and loneliness, but this world also a real family that has love and hope in it.
Buttressed between two milestone events within their personal sphere, the lives of the Jians - husband and wife N.J. and Min-Min, teenage daughter Ting-Ting, and eight year old son Yang-Yang - and to a lesser extent that of their broader grouping of extended family and friends, are presented. The Jians live in an upscale apartment complex in Taipei along with Min-Min's mother, who has fallen into a coma, each family member who takes turns by her bedside to relay life's goings-on to her regardless of if she can hear them. While Min-Min has troubles with this on-going task, the other three use her as an unofficial sounding board for their issues, primarily in the realm of finding their place in current life and their role in her predicament. Yang-Yang still has a child's simple perspective of the world, such as the reason he has a penchant for taking photographs of the back of people's heads, that naiveté exactly the reason he is the target of bullying especially among a group of older girls, and by one of his teachers. Ting-Ting is acting as the unofficial intermediary in the complicated relationship between her best friend and next door neighbor Lili, and her boyfriend Fatty. It is made all the more difficult as Ting-Ting has feelings for Fatty herself. And N.J., a computer electronics engineer, is seen as the honest one among him and his partners, which is why he is chosen to deal with Japanese Mr. Ota in assessing if it worth the expensive but potentially lucrative risk of going into business with him. Concurrently, N.J., who uses Mr. Ota as a confidante of sorts in their emerging friendship, reunites and becomes reacquainted with childhood friend Sherry, married and now living in Chicago, she who could have been the one in his life if he ended up keeping their appointment thirty years ago. Min-Min's younger brother A-Di may face that same conundrum thirty years down the road as he just married Xiao-Yan partly for a very specific reason, while his old girlfriend Yunyun fumes on the sidelines.
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