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61. Little Big Women; movie review

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Title : 61. Little Big Women; movie review
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Cert PG
121 mins
BBFC advice: Contains alcohol misuse, references to violence, bereavement theme, smoking

Little Big Women may begin slowly but it becomes beautiful, often spikily acted, immersion into Taiwanese culture
At first, I feared it was going to be ponderous but by its end, it had delivered sublime layers of family history which had been long locked behind personal bitterness.
At its heart is powerful matriarch Shoying (Shu-Fang Chen) who is preparing for her 70th birthday celebrations when she hears of the death of her estranged husband.
Her grief is complicated by the revelation that he had been with another woman (Ding Ning) for more than a decade.
So, what was intended to be a reunion for a party turns out to be a ten-day wake for a father and husband whose memory has long been tainted.
And dredging up the past - sometimes in conversation and occasionally in flashback - brings some personal grievances to the fore.
It transpires that the couple's three daughters are very different.
Vivian Hsu Jo-hsuan portrays a successful doctor who has doubts about her marriage and finds it difficult to control her teenage daughter.
Meanwhile, Hsieh Ying-xuan plays a free-spirited dancer who is most at odds with her demanding mother.
And then there is Sun-Ke-fang who runs her own restaurant in the shadow of her mum's scowling face of disapproval.
While each of the cast offers their own nuanced contribution, eyes swivel immediately towards Shu-Fang every time she hits the screen.
She nails a character who is outwardly dominant but is beset with personal insecurities which gradually begin to emerge.
In her own mind, she is trying to do her best by her daughters but she finds herself out of step with all of them.
It is a performance for which the veteran actress has earned deserved awards.
That, combined with the clever diversions in its script and an introduction to the rituals which surround the death of a family member in Taiwan, mean Joseph Chen-chieh Hsu's film is worthy of keen attention.

Reasons to watch: A cultural immersion
Reasons to avoid: Will be too slow for some

Laughs: None
Jumps: None
Vomit: None
Nudity: None
Overall rating: 8/10

Did you know? 
Tainan is the oldest city on the island of Taiwan and also commonly known as the Capital City for its over 200 years of history as the capital of Taiwan under Koxinga and later Qing rule. Tainan's complex history of comebacks, redefinitions and renewals inspired its popular nickname the Phoenix City.

The final word. Director Joseph Chen-chieh Hsu: “The overarching theme of Little Big Women is ‘the process of gradually putting things to rest;’ I am confident that people from all corners of the world can empathise with issues involving life and death and the resentment and grudges that we experience.” Vacancy


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