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Zinnia Flower
Crossing Hennessy

Stone and Karena Lam mourn in Zinnia Flower.

Chinese:

百日告別

 
Year: 2015  
Director: Tom Lin Shu-Yu
Producer: Liu Weijan, Julia Hsieh
Writer:

Tom Lin Shu-Yu, Liu Weijan

Cast:

Karena Lam Ka-Yan, Stone, Bryan Chang Shu-Hao, Nana Lee, Tsai Hsuan-Yen, Ke Jia-Yan, Umin Boya

The Skinny:

Tom Lin's restrained drama is a subtly moving look at the process of mourning. Provided that you arenít expecting Departures, this is a worthwhile visit for its honest and quietly illuminating look at an often-told yet difficult subject. Karena Lam won a Golden Horse Best Actress Award for her role. Inspired in part by the untimely death of director Tom Linís wife.

 
Review
by Kozo:
Director Tom Lin (Starry Starry Night, Winds of September) drew upon personal experience to create his somber drama Zinnia Flower. Lin recently lost his wife to illness, and he uses those painful emotions for this story of two strangers who cross paths while mourning their loved ones. Unlike Linís previous, more approachable works, Zinnia Flower features a restrained, sedately-told narrative that lacks stylistic punch. Dramatic exclamation points are abundant, but Lin takes care not to compromise his subject matter with pandering melodrama or Hallmark Card-like epiphanies. This isnít Departures, which portrayed funerals as cathartic monuments to closure. In Zinnia Flower, the departed do not inspire a grand emotional reckoning but instead a sustained, arduous and subtly illuminating process of mourning.

Zinnia Flower begins in the aftermath of a car accident that takes multiple lives. Lin Shin-Ming (Karena Lam) loses her fiancť Jen-Yo (Umin Boya), a chef who planned a culinary honeymoon to Okinawa for the couple, while travel planner Chang Yu-Wei (Stone) loses his wife Wen (Alice Ke), a music teacher who was also pregnant with their first child. After the initial shock, Ming and Wei both attend a 100-day Buddhist Ceremony, which honors the departed at regular prayer gatherings held every 7th day until Day 49, with one final gathering on Day 100. The ceremony gives the film a nominal structure, while also providing opportunities for Ming and Wei to meet and connect. Otherwise, each goes through their own individual grieving process, encountering personal discoveries and even moments of emotional or physical harm. Letting go is the goal but itís not one easily reached.

Unlike what Zinnia Flowerís poster depicts, the film doesnít present a relationship or inordinate sharing between the two leads. The two donít help each other deal with their losses Ė actually, the film seems to say that mourning of a loved one is a journey that one must take alone. Frustratingly, the journey might never end. Each person goes about the process in an individual, perhaps aimless manner. Wei engages in a spontaneous sexual encounter and hides reminders of Wen from his sight, while Ming deals with the leftover pieces of her aborted marriage by packing Jen-Yoís belongings and emptying their new flat. Eventually, Wei begins to track down Wenís former music students to return their tuition money while Jen goes on her honeymoon alone. There are small moments of closure, and some potent stabs to the heart, but only occasional catharsis and no epiphanies. Their paths bring them closer to moving on but progress is incremental, quietly frustrating and even despairing.

At the same time, their journeys possess beauty. The picturesque scenery and delicious foods of Ming and Jen-Yoís Okinawa honeymoon imbue their love with color and understanding. Meanwhile, Weiís encounters with Wenís students yield lasting traces and reminders of his wifeís favorite music and the joy in her smile. Given Tom Linís sometimes inscrutable direction, the actors must carry the film; Stone goes for a convincing suppressed anger, but is outshone by Karena Lamís gentle and subtly layered melancholy. Lam accomplishes more by doing less, such that her quiet outbursts, more deliberate than inadvertent, carry more power. There are some continuity issues and a lack of forthcoming, but the film ultimately rewards patient viewers with a revealing and non-judgmental statement that loss Ė more than anything Ė is hard. Zinnia Flower may not earn high-profile accolades, as itís too subtle and lacks critic or crowd-pleasing technique, but it presents a real and worthwhile journey that, most likely, we all must take one day. (Kozo, 12/2015)

 
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Long Shong Entertainment Multimedia Co.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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