Reel Affirmations 2007
Sheng xia guang nian
Review by Sean Bugg
Rating: (5 out of 5)
Saturday, 10/13/2007, 5:00 PM
Feature presentation, $10 at Lincoln Theatre
Mandarin with English subtitles
ONE OF THE first crutches of film criticism is to deride a film for lack of originality, as if every film should be a revelation of heretofore unknown plots and situations.
Of course, neither storytelling nor the world it portrays is always original. Often, it comes down not to a display of originality, but to how masterfully one can tell a story that will feel familiar to much of its audience.
Eternal Summer is that masterful film, telling the story of a trio of friends — Jonathan, Shane and Carrie — as they grow into adulthood. Jonathan harbors an unrequited love for his best friend, Shane. Carrie initially loves Jonathan, until she understands where his affections actually lie. And Shane, on the surface the stereotypical straight jock, seems oblivious to how he affects the other points of his triangle.
What elevates Eternal Summer is the pure and total skill with which it’s told, particularly the core relationship of best friends Jonathan and Shane. As Jonathan, Bryant Chang manages to show the deep hurt he carries without resorting to pathos. Hsiao-chuan Chang infuses Shane with surprising depth and emotion — he’s not the simplistic, self-confident jock he seems to be.
On top of the acting, Eternal Summer features wonderful cinematography and beautifully composed frames that envelope you in the uncertain world of near-adults trying to find their way through their fears of change and loneliness. And for all the angst and sadness, it ends on a note of subtle joy.
Perhaps all that is an overwrought way of saying Eternal Summer is one of the most emotionally affecting films of this year’s festival. But at its heart it’s a simple story, well-told, and not to be forgotten. — SB
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