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Film Review: A Sun (2020)

IMDb Link: A Sun (2019)
Director: Mong-Hong Chung
Writers: Yaosheng Chang, Mong-Hong Chung
Cast: Chien-Ho Wu, Yi-wen Chen, Kuan-Ting Liu

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

This film takes less than a minute to grab your intention as the opening sequence immediately goes in a direction that is shocking, both narratively and visually. The sharp, quick edits leave you with no room to breathe or to question what is happening as we are thrown straight into the story, and there is a major pay-off from it. The story immediately hooks you in, and keeps you engaged throughout the entire runtime.

Initially, it scared me to see that the film clocked in at over 150 minutes, especially with how simple the synopsis seems. However, I was not left bored or disengaged with the story at any point. The narrative moves as a steady pace, giving the audience time to fully connect with the characters and the main storylines without the desperate need to speed up or add further storylines to add interest to the film. The roles of each family member and their relationships are established quickly but are also given time to expand and develop throughout this incredibly tense film.

There are numerous sequences that will stay in my head for a long time, and that is not just the hard-hitting opening sequence. It can be easy to form the movie around these moments and make them feel disjointed or unbelievable, but this film navigates that nicely as each scene has a real purpose of being here. These sequences are brought to life by the wonderful cinematography, which is unafraid of showing more than what is expected and still capturing some gorgeous backdrops whilst doing so. The streets of Taiwan come to life in this film, both the urban cities and the rural backdrops.

The cast here are all excellent, playing such complex roles in a film that primarily focuses on the highs and lows that are thrown at the family. Yi-wen Chen is the stand-out as the father, A-Wen, the man who should be the rock for the family but instead has the most pressure placed on him. Whether he is at his job at the driving school or dealing with a family issue, his story is compelling and his character is someone that we may not completely agree on but can sympathise with.

This is a tough movie to get through, even with how well it is crafted and how engaging the story is. There are many themes that run throughout the film that are dark, right from the offset with that opening sequence throughout to the final few scenes of the film. I commend Mong-Hong Chung for taking many risks within this film to tell this story and to tell it in such a manner that could have faltered, but instead crafted something that is quite hauntingly beautiful.

I do wish with the length of time that this film has that some storylines did last a bit longer. There would certain scenes that had interesting ideas but never had time to properly develop as the purpose of the story would be to move on from that storyline, and I felt the script could have been more patient within those moments. This is particularly true of the prison sequences, which had some interesting ideas about the conditions the prisoners lived under and the rules within the system, and yet the story primarily focused on life for the prisoner’s family and his journey of getting out of there, rather than who he was inside the system.

Aside from that, this is a wonderfully crafted movie from Mong-Hong Chung. I did not expect myself to be this engaged with the entire family and their story, and yet I was left wanting to know more about them and to see where they went after the events of this film. After already spending 150+ minutes with them, that is quite impressive. I hope people check this one out, especially since it is one of the tougher yet strongest watches of this year’s International Feature contenders.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Sun is available to watch on Netflix now.

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