*WARNING*: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. If you DO NOT want to be spoiled, please DO NOT read. You have been warned.
To tell the truth, I was sitting there for a while before I could write this. I was still thinking about what it was actually all about. There were a lot of things to mull over, like cultural influences that made the plot flow along–though it was not as clear what the plot was at times. Yes, it was about Aga’s discoveries of the letters and how he finally delivered it to the supposed recipient. But there was so much more surrounding the overall story. It was about a town with an enriched historical background. It was also a town where the elders lived for many generations yet the young generation wanted to leave the place–feeling restricted by it.
I think the soundtrack played an important part into the movie itself because it actually made up for emotional efforts in here where different scenes were paved out. It was actually thirty minutes or so into the film that I gave up trying to see the point of the movie. But then I soon realized there was no point. At least it was not definite. There were random stories going on and weaving itself with both subtle and not so subtle moments that would then contributed a bigger part to the overall plot. It was surrounding Aga and how he later discovered why others loved this town so much. The town he wanted to escape from yet ironically seek resort at after his failure to find success in Taipei. The song “Don’t Wanna” playing in the background while Aga was frustrated or reliving past memories made it even more intense.
Contrary to the hectic feeling that “Don’t Wanna” contained, “As Happy As Can Be” brought out so much liveliness and enthusiasm that was meant to vibrate everyone around. It was sort of tying back to how it didn’t matter if things did not make sense or how anything around the town did not make sense; it was all right to be like that. That was a great collaboration among the band members.
Also, the part where they sang the second song, called “South of Border”, was really amazing as well since it brought together various types of instruments that were not thought to fit well together but turned out really nice and soothing. It was like telling how different cultures that were brought forth in the movie were able to co-exist as long as they were willing to put forth an effort. The main theme, titled “1945”, was a good choice and well-composed because it included various stages of emotion, like the longing of someone and the placid feeling of love yet there was a mix of forlorn feeling weaved into it as well.
During the process of recruitment and construction of the band, it also unfolded a lot of subtle yet obvious reasons why Aga wanted to leave the town so much. How was he able to survive or stay sane at a town with so much randomness and/or nonsense? The people seemed to pour in from everywhere or mixes of cultures. But it was an amazing sight at the same time to illustrate the number of cultures that were in place for the story context. People from different regions coming together and giving us viewers a lot to think about. How were they to co-exist with so many differences? Through different conversations and/or arguments, we were able to see different perspectives–from the older generation to younger ones, from men to women, or just the differences of regions–as mentioned before. All in all, there was a sense of overwhelming feeling surrounding such influences.
As the story moved along, there were many other things to discover than the surface of the multi-cultural aspect that the town contained. There was a sense of unification among the people. They were proud of who they were and were not afraid to let others know about them. Like how the Town Council Representative insisted on forming a local band instead of bringing in outside cultures–or other forms of popular culture into the town.
Seeing the diversity and the unification among the people of the town made it even more admirable. Not to mention that it was through the bass guitarist’s accident that they discovered how they were able to join together and helped bring him to the hospital.
It was probably also the first time that Aga was reaching his hand out and was also alert of the others around him. He was willing to be part of them. The hospital scene was probably also the first time Aga smiled–or it was actually seen that he smiled.
Another factor that probably contributed to Aga’s change in attitude toward the town, in general, was probably the letters–the most important theme of all. The letters written by the Japanese teacher had taught Aga more than he was able to learn within such a short span of time. He was able to see through the man’s eyes about the town’s wonderful cultures and its breathtaking views. The sea was just another place he was coming to unleash his anger but it was later seen as a place where he was able to sit and think–even finding peace at.
It made him cherish a lot more around him than just love. Love was as equally important but I felt that it conveyed much more through that letters, such as the part where the teacher saw the rainbow while writing a letter. There were so many things going into the letters, not just simple as messages of love.
That was not all that I got out of this movie but could count for the majority of it. It was a wonderful movie overall. It did not have just one focal point. Yes, the one that actually stuck out was the love letters–as mentioned before various times, but there were so much more to learn. There was a lot of randomnesses because that was how each of us goes through every day. The variety of people around us. Not everyone was as glamorous or gorgeous as the other movies and/or dramas portrayed the characters to be. But that was what made it more real. Hence, I was actually toward the idea of casting various unfamiliar faces for the movie. What I also like about the movie was that it was not trying too hard with making the main characters too important. Yes, you know which ones they would focus on more, but it did not add the aspect of having Tomoko related to Kojima Tomoko. It would’ve been too cliched and too trying if they did that. It also stressed that what we are looking for could be by our side–like if Tomoko did not talk to Lin Ming Zhu, she would never discover the connection.
Acting? Must say that Van pulled it through quite well though reviews kept pointing out his experience was limited so it was not expected as much. He made it by showing various emotions of Aga. I could not say the same for Chie since she was able to portray the sad or subtle parts well but not the more emotional parts or the frustration. The whole thing with her kept bobbing her head forward when scolding others was a bit overkilled and I thought could do without since it did not contribute to anything except making her more annoying. Yes, she was frustrated with the way things were operated but the things she said and her hand gestures were enough. No need to bob her head some more for effect. Still, some parts made up for the others so I will not be too harsh on her. The special appearances of various artists were quite interesting also and contributed to the story nicely, like Kousuke Atari (as the Japanese teacher and himself) and Rachel Liang (as the young Kojima Tomoko).
Overall, nice job. (Lucky it worked because Director Wei took major risks going into the project.)
*All images were captured by DTLCT