JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Speechless (Director: Simon Chung) - May 24, 2012


Wu Yan

4.5 4.5
92 min.

Reviewed at the 2012 Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film and Video Festival
Words fail me

Simon Chung’s latest offering demonstrates a maturity for delving into issues and extraordinary sense of matching pace with events that will reward all who see it. Boy-boy-girl love triangles are nothing new whether gay or straight (e.g., The Dreamers); opening a film with a completely naked lost soul who will need considerable healing is also not a new narrative device (e.g., Saved by the Belles) and revenge more heinous than the crime has stimulated filmmakers’ imaginations since the dawn of cinema (unforgettably in Confessions). Here, Chung has successfully combined all of those elements into a marvellous concoction of just what can happen when “There is nothing covered that will not be revealed” rears its deadly head.

Found without a stitch and clearly traumatized into wordless silence, French foreigner Luke (Pierre-Matthieu Vital) is kept out of the insane asylum by Jiang (Gao Qilun), an instantly smitten nursing assistant whose brand of TLC may well be headed for very personal international relations as the ever-attentive Chinese rescuer ferries his unexpected companion back to his past.

Lan (Si Tu Yu Ting) Jiang’s date—one of the local police who helped fish Luke out of the river—is none too amused when it appears the exotic, mute stranger has captured her prospective partner’s attention. (The screen positively radiates on several occasions when Gao’s smile says more about the feelings between the two men than any line of dialogue could.)

Filling out the principal characters are a pair of Luke’s university chums who are both headed for careers in biology. Ning (Yu Yung Yung) seems to have spurned the amorous advances of the exchange student but can’t abide losing him to her current beau, Han (Jiang Jian). The nervous young man—like so many others of any race or nationality—wants to know just how his “gayness” was so readily sensed by his sudden Caucasian lover. No reply is given or needed as Chung silently answers another of his theme’s questions.

The drama is lovingly unfolded, employing many deliberately stagnant shots (beautifully rendered by Chan Chi Lap) that let the characters and audience reflect each step of the way, truly savouring or slinking away from those moments of truth. Completely at one with that thoughtful atmosphere is Sebastien Seidel’s original score where percussionist Karina Yau is note perfect—particularly her marimba artistry for the “road” sequences.

As the miserable climax takes shape, Chung’s ability to have his images speak louder than words fires on all cylinders. Ning exacts her pound of steamy flesh during a Christian church service where she is the steadfast, stoic accompanist even as the object of her scorn sings innocently in the choir. The shattering effect on all lives in the house of forgiveness, tolerance and love of all creatures is a cinematic knockout punch for the ages.

Hopefully, those on the cusp of understanding their own sexuality or that of their partners, will see this film before the all too common consequences ruin lives forever. JWR

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Further information, future screening/performance/exhibition dates,
purchase information, production sponsors:
Breaking Glass Pictures Hong Kong Arts Development Council Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film and Video Festival Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival
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