A Journey in Spring (2023) San Sebastián Film Festival 2023

September 28th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dirs: Ping-Wen Wang, Tzu-Hui Peng | Taiwan, Drama, 90′ 

Lovers of slow-burning Asian Arthouse cinema in the masters Jia Zhangke, Tsai Ming-liang or Kim Ki-Duk will warm to this drole and dystopian look at a marriage in decline and its aftermath.

A languorous opening sequence by a waterfall gives way to a bustling street scene that shows, without the need for words, that Khim-Hok and his wife Tua are no longer happy together. And who can I blame a bickering middle-aged couple forced into close proximity enduring the dregs of winter in a rain-soaked rural backwater, dreary despite its magnificent temples and lively food market.

Small domestic altercations in the couple’s cramped living conditions collide with serene moments in the lush Taiwanese countryside when Khim-Hok remembers their promising past and his estranged son’s happy wedding, seen in flashback, as he waits endlessly for a bus. Back at home matters come to a head after an incident with a jar of plums, and the following day when Tua quietly passes away he decides to relegate her body to the chest freezer.

But their son and his partner suddenly appear on the scene, unannounced, after years of absence. Khim-hok clearly has some explaining to do and this clarity focuses his mind and brings the past flooding back into the present leading him on a cathartic and often poignant journey of reflection and self-discovery.

Seasoned filmmakers Ping-Wen Wang and Tzu-Hui Peng direct this assured and resplendent Taiwanese tale that unfolds in evocative tableaux giving minor moments of everyday life a resonance without resorting to fanfare or fussy dialogue. Journey into Spring is a watchable joy – particularly for an international audience outside Taiwan – with its minimal dialogue. The sleek script speaks volumes leaving nothing spare in a muted and memorable 21st century parable. MT


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