Directed by: Ka-Fai Wai | 85 minutes | drama, fantasy | Actors: Ching Wan Lau, Kelly Lin, Jo Kuk, Mia Yam, Man-Wai Wong, Ying-kit Chung, Amy Kwok, Mimi Lo, Chung-man Pow, Shuk-man Yeung, Yaqi Zeng, Bun Yuen
If you read the summary of “Written By,” expect a standard ghost thriller that Asian filmmakers seem to have patented. In this case you are wrong, because this movie is different. Really different.
Director Ka-Fai Wai tells about a family that has to contend with a tragic loss. When the father (Lau Ching-Wan) dies in a car accident, he leaves behind a wife (Kelly Lin) and daughter (Mia Yam). Ten years later, the mother is still inconsolable. The daughter, blinded by the crash, has taken up her life again. The two survivors try to come to terms with their grief by writing a book. In this novel the father has survived the accident, but his mother and daughter are dead. The film tells a story within a story and jumps back in time. The dividing line between reality and fantasy is wafer-thin, so you will have to puzzle to fully understand the story.
“Written By” is about sadness, meaning, resignation and acceptance. Enough ingredients to be able to speak of a successful and challenging film. Unfortunately that is not the case. The story is well put together, but the elaboration leaves much to be desired.
Visually, this film is very dated. Cheerful use of color cannot hide the fact that the decors are sober and there is little to be seen. The static camera angles are also not very exciting and the lavish soundtrack is not very attractive either. In itself not that problematic, provided the acting is okay. The cast is not bad, but their theatrical way of acting will take some getting used to for the average Westerner. Sometimes the film is reminiscent of a Chinese opera. It is that the hand gestures are not so exaggerated, but the soap-like scenes are slow and doused with too much melodrama. A more subdued way of acting would have done this bittersweet story much better.