A Sun 2019

 Safety 2020

story of A Sun 2019 movie:

A family fractures under the weight of unmet expectations, unexpected tragedy and uncompromising pride.

  • Genre:Crime, Drama
  • Original Language:Chinese
  • Director:Mong-Hong Chung
  • Producer:Shao-chien Tseng, Ju-feng Yeh
  • Writer:Mong-Hong Chung, Yaosheng Chang
  • Release Date (Streaming):Jan 24, 2020
  • Runtime:2h 36m
  • Production Co:3 Ng Film, Mandarin Vision

about A Sun 2019 movie:

A Sun (Chinese: 陽光普照) is a 2019 Taiwanese drama film directed and co-written by Chung Mong-hong. The film stars Chen Yi-wenSamantha KoWu Chien-hoLiu Kuan-ting. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 6, 2019 and was also screened at the Tokyo International Film Festival.[4][5] It received 11 nominations at the 56th Golden Horse Awards, winning Best Feature Film and Best Director for Chung.[6] It was selected as the Taiwanese entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards.

A family scrambling for economic survival falls to pieces when the two teenage sons make devastating life decisions in the moving drama from Taiwan, A Sun (Yang Guang Pu Zhao). Directed and co-written by Chung Mong-hong (Soul, Godspeed), it poses the moral question of whether it’s possible to survive as a wholly good person in a treacherous world. Thisthought-provoking drama is long but well-paced, full of incident but at the same time intimate — though shocking violence occurs just offscreen. Illuminated by deeply nuanced performances and characters to care about, it positions itself somewhere between the loving but messed-up families of Edward Yang and Ken Loach. It’s one of the memorable Asian films this year, well worth the effort of tracking down after bows in Toronto and Tokyo, and could work well in limited release with Asian cinema fans.

Chung, a former director of TV commercials who also handles the lighting of his films under the name Nagao Nakashima, is very much in control of the desolate but poetic mood that makes the film feel so distinctive. For his part, A-wen (Chen Yi-wen), the crabby and inordinately proud father of the family, sets a tone of tension in the kitschy apartment he shares with his hairdresser wife, Chin (the magnetic Samantha Shu-chin Ko), and their sons. However, A-wen only recognizes his sensitive, considerate premed boy A-hao (Xu Guang-han); the punky A-ho (Wu Chien-ho), black sheep of the family, he self-righteously chooses to ignore.

In a dynamic opener set in a busy restaurant, A-ho is the accomplice of a mad dog pal called Radish (Liu Kuan-ting), who chops off a rival’s hand in a restaurant, a scene that sets the action bar high. The time is 1996, a year of presidential elections in Taiwan when tensions with China were particularly high — but this is just background to the domestic story. A-wen, a crabby driving instructor whose graying hair suggests he’s chastised a few too many student drivers in his time, attends his son’s hearing only to urge the judge to lock him up as long as possible. His wife is furious with him, but A-ho just looks defeated. This brief scene speaks volumes about the family dynamics that have left this son out in the emotional cold and probably pushed him into bad company.

The other mark against A-ho is the constant comparisons Dad makes with his brother A-hao, who is undoubtedly the “sun” of the title. He always takes the high road, but his pure heart and sunny reputation deprive him, he tells a girlfriend, of “a dark corner to hide in.” It’s the first hint that no living being can be all light, all the time. When he goes to visit A-ho in a juvenile detention center that looks very much like a prison, he brings with him a young girl who is carrying A-ho’s baby. Her family has dumped her on their doorstep and their good-hearted mother has taken her in. A-ho doesn’t take the news well.

Out of the blue, in a plot twist no one is expecting, A-hao drops out of the story, and it’s like the center of the family has fallen out; the sunshine has vanished from their lives. A few years pass and A-ho and Radish are released from detention. A-wen remains stonily unforgiving and refuses to even talk to the boy, who now has a wife and child on his hands.

The second half of the film shows how a youth who has been marked as a social liability has very little chance of fulfilling his good intentions. Sober-faced but unbowed, Wu Chien-ho does a fine job making the rebellious A-ho into a human being who matters, tough enough to stand a fighting chance of straightening out his life against overwhelming forces of darkness. On a lonely road one dark and stormy night, a final, heart-rending twist shows he’s not as alone as he feared.

The last scenes, which again turn to criminal violence, broach gangster film territory, while they underline how morally messy life is. Even murder may be a necessary part of it. It’s an idea worth pondering, one that Chung reinforces with a light touch when A-ho and his mother go for a stolen bike ride in the dappled shade of their pleasant street. 

Production company: 3 NG Film
Cast: Chen Yi-wen, Samantha Shu-chin Ko, Wu Chien-ho, Liu Kuan-ting
Director: Chung Mong-hong
Screenwriters: Chung Mong-hong, Chang Yaoshen
Producers: Yeh Jufeng, Tseng Shao-chien
Director of photography: Nagao Nakashima
Production designer: Chao Shih-hao
Costume designer: Hsu Li-wen
Editor: Lai Hsiu-hsiung
Music: Lin Sheng-xiang
Venue: Tokyo Film Festival (World Focus)
World sales: MandarinVision Co.

155 minutes

Courtesy of Mandarin Vision.

Last weekend, family drama A Sun (陽光普照), dominated 2019’s Golden Horse Awards (Taiwan’s Oscars). The film won in six categories—including best feature, best director, and best leading actor. Though a Chinese boycott of the awards lessened competition, A Sun deserves acclaim as one of this year’s strongest Chinese-language films. Centering on a family beset with misfortune, A Sun crafts an intricate, character-driven drama that’s compelling enough to entertain audiences throughout its two and a half hour runtime.

We Are (Unhappy) Family!

Courtesy of Mandarin Vision.

If the image of a severed human hand bubbling in soup scares you, avoid A Sun. The film begins with an act of violence that sparks a series of woes for the four-member Chen family. Three of the Chens seem like humdrum working-class Taiwanese: father A-Wen (Chen Yi-wen) works as a driving instructor, mother Qiu styles hair at a nightclub, and elder son A-Hao studies to retake his med school entrance exam.

Younger son A-Ho (Wu Chien-ho), however, doesn’t fit the mold. In an act of revenge against bullying, he and his delinquent friend Radish attack a boy nicknamed Oden at a soup restaurant (there’s a dark joke here for those who know their Asian soups). A-Ho lands in juvenile detention, and A-Wen disowns him.

The Chen family’s woes don’t stop there though. Qiu learns A-Ho has impregnated a teenage girl named Xiao Yu, Oden’s father chases A-Wen for victim’s compensation, and silent cracks begin forming in A-Hao’s psyche. Thirty minutes in, A Sun has introduced a sprawling cast of characters, each with their own challenges and proclivities.

Meticulous Storytelling

Courtesy of Mandarin Vision.

Despite this narrative complexity, A Sun never feels overburdened. The film somehow allows even small narrative details to serve layered, meaningful purposes. For instance, A-Wen’s driving school has the slogan “seize the day, find your direction” (把握時間,掌握方向). This becomes a motif that surfaces in numerous subtle ways before becoming a core component of the film’s climax. Similarly, a quote from A-Hao gives the film its Chinese title 陽光普照, which translates directly to “sunlight reveals all.” A Sun uses rain, darkness, and sunlight to set the dramatic tone of numerous scenes; the notion of “sunlight reveals all” also takes on visual significance during the movie’s climax.

It’s also captivating to follow the characters of A Sun. The narrative strands for father A-Wen and younger son A-Ho offer the most food for thought. Those two characters have the meatiest flaws, and thus the most room to evolve throughout the film. Without giving too much away, their character arcs become elegant foils for each other.  We see the two characters each go through a series of trials that borrow from a variety of captivating subgenres—gangster flicks, dark comedies, spousal dramas—and come out different on the other side.

Focusing on A-Wen and A-Ho naturally takes some attention away from other characters. This tradeoff feels worthwhile though. All of A Sun’s other named characters (with a few exceptions like Xiao Yu) still have enough complexity and evolution to keep the story exciting; they appear for just enough time, with just enough intensity. For instance, Radish isn’t on screen for most of the film. However, when he is, his presence meaningfully impacts the plot—thanks in part to actor Liu Kuan-Ting‘s superb portrayal of the character’s manipulative personality.

Serious, But Not Bleak

Courtesy of Mandarin Vision.

Another distinctive aspect of A Sun is that while it depicts serious themes, it’s not overwhelmingly bleak. While not a superhero blockbuster, the film still has enough friendly reference points—family dynamics, triad gangsters—that prevent mainstream audiences from getting too depressed. Its characters might suffer misfortune, but there’s still a whiff of hope.

This represents a slight evolution for A Sun’s director Chung Mong-hong. Chung’s previous features, like 2008’s Parking and 2016’s Godspeed, contained weighty existentialist undertones that evoked Irish writer Samuel Beckett. In those films, characters had no agency; absurd things just “happened” to them.

Contrastingly, A Sun’s characters seem like they have the ability to affect change in their lives, as we see through A-Wen and A-Ho’s character arcs. This doesn’t mean A Sun lacks philosophical oomph. It simply has a more accessible variety, one that grounds itself in an exploration of family dynamics. Queasy moviegoers who’d dislike its violent opening might still avoid A Sun, but the film feels like it can attract a broader audience without sacrificing artistic value.

And the Golden Horse Award for Balance Goes To…

Intricate balance—that’s the name of the game for A Sun. The film takes a bevy of characters, a litany of plot details, and a smattering of serious themes, somehow fitting them all together in a coherent, captivating manner. A Sun contains just the right amount of artistry and philosophy, mixed with sufficient doses of violence and humor to take off the edge.

Most other Chinese-language films from 2019 don’t even attempt this intricate balance. On one hand, blockbusters like Ne Zha or The Wandering Earth avoid any philosophical musings and stick to conventional stories. On the other hand, on top of boycotting the Golden Horse Awards, Beijing also suppressed many movies that might push the narrative envelope and offer serious competition to A Sun this year.

Thus, alongside other examples like Nina Wu and Wet SeasonA Sun offers an important reminder that 2019 wasn’t a total loss for Sinosphere cinema. While its relatively narrow focus on a “regular” family and lack of significant socio-political relevance might blunt A Sun’s international sellability as an art film, anyone interested in Taiwanese movies should check it out.

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Views: 12

Genre: CrimeDrama

Duration: 156 min

IMDb: 7.6