Sketches

Written by Suen Yee Ling | Review by Nora Jaenicke

The film starts out with Ming being excited about Siu Ma’s visit who is coming from Taiwan, and the two of them spending a few days together. We see them share a day at the beach, be intimate, take a romantic ferry ride and walk around the city, which is depicted with some gorgeous aerial shots and cinematography. This is when the music, a deeply touching piano melody, begins to play a vital role in the film, allowing us into the core of the story, which up until now seems to be about the delicate development of Ming’s and Siu Ma’s relationship, as they get to know one another.

We then watch a couple that we have not seen before a stroll through the city and take pictures. The boy looks sad and somewhat frustrated with what seems to be the first date. The girl continues to take pictures of them. We then find out about some break up that he is going through and obviously still affected by. When she asks him if he told his mother about it, he shakes his head and answers “You know what kind of person she is.” The dialogue is sparse, yet poignant and telling of what these characters are going through. It gives the audience enough room to imagine for themselves instead of being “led” by the Director, which proves to be extremely effective in a short film like this, given the sensitive topic it deals with. Shortly thereafter, the girl attempts to kiss him, but the boy can’t bring himself to reciprocate the kiss and breaks down in tears instead. This is an incredibly moving scene, and the choice not to show the couple upfront during this pivotal moment, perfectly fits the theme of the film. How to be true to yourself? How to live life the way you want to, and not by the rules that others, your family or society in general, have imposed upon you. By not showing the boy cry upfront, we leave him his space, and yet, we participate and empathize with his pain. The slow reveal of the reasons behind the boy’s sadness and how it ties with the main plot, shows excellent command of story development, as the curiosity of the audience remains peaked until we begin to piece the story together ourselves.

Throughout the first half of the short film, we wonder how these two storylines are connected, only to realize later on that the boy from the second storyline is Ming’s ex-boyfriend. When Siu Ma asks Ming to sketch him he is reminded of this ex, which causes him to withdraw from his new affair. We cut back to memories of Ming and his ex at the beach, where he is suddenly pushing him away and acting defensively, afraid of them being watched. At this point, the overlapping of past and present, which can seem confusing at the beginning, invites the viewer to connect the pieces for himself and results in a deeper understanding of each character’s personality and inner torment. At this point, it becomes easy to empathize with Ming and heart-breaking to witness the relationship between him and his ex-deteriorate because of the mother not being approving of it and the overall societal pressure.

“We can still stay friends.”

“I don’t think it’s necessary.”

“Alright. I don’t know when we would meet again!”

These are the last lines of dialogue between Ming and Siu Ma, as we watch a plane take off accompanied by melancholic music. This ending leaves us with a bittersweet aftertaste. This touching little film is marked by beautiful cinematography and a very unique atmosphere. It makes us think about the impact that the past has upon the present, at how hard it is to move on from one relationship to the next, especially when it ended because of societal pressure, which didn’t allow the love to flourish to begin with. How sometimes the simplest details can trigger memories that can quite literally “wash over” us and affect the present moment by changing it forever.

 

Nora is currently in post-production of one more short film -Joyce, also a short film version of a feature that she is hoping to make: A mosaic of interrelated stories that explore the American Dream and the plight of immigrants in New York City. She is an avid traveler, continuing to explore the world and telling stories about it, whenever she gets a chance.