The Dallas Movie Screening Group

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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

AFFD2019 - Wish You Were Here

Fashion designer Yuan Yuan (Feihong Yu) is approached by a design student from Japan, Keiko (Ayana Kinoshita). Surprisingly, Keiko is taken in by the high-profile Yuan Yuan with open arms instead of being turned away as expected. Yuan Yuan shows Keiko around her studio, inviting the young woman into her inner circle and the design process as she plans her new show.

Kenneth Bi’s new feature, “Wish You Were Here,” could pass for a quite different film from that opening description but, as viewers are inserted into the world of Yuan Yuan it becomes apparent that something isn’t quite right. The film’s morose tone is apparent from its snow-filled, cold-colored opening shot with cinematographer Roman Jakobi’s imagery aided by Andre Matthias’s score. Throughout the film, Matthias uses a mixture of intricately orchestrated strings and chords from a mournful piano to help build up the darker elements hiding beneath this film’s surface.

Keiko’s sudden appearance reminds Yuan Yuan of her youth and causes her to begin to confront her past. A series of flashbacks is threaded into the narrative, revealing Yuan Yuan’s unhappy life as a young wife. As Keiko and Yuan Yuan grow closer, Bi’s film becomes more somber. The flashbacks lead to revelations which result in Yuan Yuan deciding the time is right to try to reconcile with her ex-husband, Tomiya (Takao Ohsawa).

Jakobi austerely photographs “Wish You Were Here,” using the icy-weathered backdrop to mirror the character’s forlorn feelings. Scenes are well blocked with the characters starkly and aesthetically placed within the frame. The past and present are seamlessly fused together making the story easy to follow, or so I thought. There is a revelation thrown in toward the end that seemed to throw many in the audience for a loop, causing some to be left confused by the film’s conclusion.

Performances from the cast are fine. The stylish Yuan Yuan is excellently portrayed by Yu. She captures the woman’s subtle feelings of regret as she is forced to face decisions from her past. Yuriko Hoshi plays Yuan Yuan’s Japanese mother-in-law, clearly showing the characters sternly adamant rejection of her Chinese daughter-in-law. Her rejection being a major deciding factor in ending her marriage.

“Wish You Were Here” shows how previous decisions can continue to affect a person later in life. It’s a depressing story, sure to be a turn-off for some viewers, but it’s well told, acted, and photographed.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

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