Friday, October 15, 2010

Taiwan Film Days ’10: Hear Me

While the Beijing 2008 Olympics were rife with controversy, the 2009 Deaflympics in Taipei earned high marks all the way around. The Taipei games also helped inspire a ridiculously cute teen rom-com that deals respectfully and forthrightly with the hearing impaired. A huge hit in Taiwan, Cheng Fen-fen’s Hear Me (trailer here) has a good heart and an earnest cast that should translate well when it screens next weekend during the San Francisco Film Society’s Taiwan Film Days at the Viz Theater.

Tian-kuo is a gooney delivery boy working for his family’s restaurant, who somehow picked up considerable fluency in sign language. It comes in handy when he tries to put the moves on Yang-yang, the sister of Xiao Peng, a Deaflypian swimmer in training. Though Yang-yang is the younger sibling, she is her sister’s sole financial support, willingly juggling multiple jobs to support her dreams of a gold medal.

By contrast, Tian-kuo only has one job, which he does rather poorly, but of course his nagging yet big-hearted mother and “aw-shucks” father are not about to fire him. Being an idiot (but a well meaning one) he inadvertently offends Yang-yang. Deeply heartsick, he desperately tries to make amends, but Yang-yang is more concerned with her other family tribulations.

A sweetly luminous screen presence, Ivy Chen displays a dynamic spirit and considerable dramatic range as Yang-yang. For his part, Eddie Peng makes a likable enough goober as Tian-kuo. Their chemistry together is pleasingly credible, even though she ought to be well out of his league. Adding further heft, Michelle Chen’s spot-on supporting turn as Xiao Peng is believably nuanced and ultimately quite moving.

Granted, Hear hardly breaks any new rom-com ground, but its execution is surprisingly strong. In fact, it pulls off a potentially gimmicky ending largely through the strength of its engaging cast. For cineastes, Hear might be a guilty pleasure, but for most movie patrons, it should be an entertaining crowd pleaser. It is really impossible not to have some affection for the film. It screens next Saturday (10/23) as part of the SFFS’s Taiwan Film Days.