Film review – Zinnia Flower (Tom Shu-Yu Lin, 2015)

I’m going to kick-off before I say anything else and let you know that if you’re looking for a film that will make you feel immediately happy, then Tom Shu-Yu Lin’s latest isn’t for you. If, however, you’re willing to invest the smallest amount of emotional sympathy with the characters then you’ll find yourself on a deeply effective journey as two characters deal with the mourning process of losing their loved-ones.

The film opens with a devastating multi-car crash. Yu Wei (Stone) loses his heavily-pregnant wife and their unborn child but escapes with just a broken arm. Shin Min (Karena Lam) also loses her fiancé in the same incident. They begin their traditional Buddhist mourning period of 100 days. Shin Min goes on the honeymoon to Okinawa she will never be able to have with her fiancé and Yu Wei turns to alcohol and anger to forget his sorrow.

 

The film is boldly intimate in its portrayal of grief, and its success is secured by two excellent performances from the lead actors, whose lives are intertwined but yet are dealing with almost identical situations in entirely different ways.

It is painful to watch at times, though I was unaware on first viewing that director Lin was drawing on personal experiences as inspiration for the story – he lost his wife in a car accident in 2012. Had I known this I would have viewed it through entirely different eyes.

Indeed, the film itself is representative of Lin’s journey through grief. Just as the two leads take their journey through the internal resolution of their losses, it appears as though Lin has used this to rationalise the pain he went through. I summise that each character represents a different part of his journey, neither of which is portrayed as a correct or incorrect way to deal with the death of a loved one. Simply, how can you possibly say what’s a right or wrong way to cope in such devastating circumstances? Lin intelligently doesn’t make that decision for us either; the film he is made is provocative enough to not need to spoon-feed its viewers on such a complex issue.

There is also a starkness in the portrayal of the juxtaposition between the pair attending their Buddhist mourning ceremonies and their mindset behind closed doors. In my opinion, this was done to underline the façade that those in the throes of grief assume in public, perhaps indicating that this defined method of grief is wholly outdated. I certainly didn’t feel like they were at the end of their grieving process by the end of the film. Perhaps Lin is in the same place?

This is essential viewing for anyone coping with grief and loss. A beautiful but heartbreaking picture that deserves wider coverage.

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