The 2011 Taiwanese fantasy drama film Starry Starry Night is an Asian pixie, and even-more-innocent, version of the French Amelie we so fell in love with in 2001. The story is directed by Tom Lin and is based on the hugely popular, also Taiwanese, Jimmy’s (幾米) graphic drawings. Watching the two-hour visual parade feels something like paying tribute to Hogwart’s flying trains while floating above the rolling hills on Van Gogh’s dramatic horizon, which Jimmy dreamt further.
The powerful images take us on a journey and we, with a child in our eyes, follow Van Gogh’s brushstrokes off his painting onto the motion pictures. His steeple, the dark little village, the night sky, the overwhelming but all so familiar loneliness all appear, making some stunning visual poetry that constantly rhymes with the ever so famous piece of fine art, Starry Night.
The easy to understand metaphors, ambiences, the credible acting and directing make the film memorable to watch and positively reminds us of other similar movie experiences where images confidently switch between fantasy cartoon and often dream-like realities, for instance the very likable 500 Days of Summer by Marc Webb or Jessica Alba’s, not recommended, An Invisible Sign.
Van Gogh painted Starry Night while in an Asylum at Saint-Remy in 1889. In the movie in parallel, our protagonist, instead of a mad artist, we meet a more classic case of a confused teenage girl, in the midst of her divorcing parents, a recently deceased, beloved, granddad and a budding romantic friendship with her new classmate. She, Xiao Mei, invites us into her cartoon-beaded emotional turmoils, told with a subtle narrative. The actress carries the whole plot, along with its whirly shades, with her on a magic carpet.
The wild but familiar landscape weaves through and into her imagination, bobbing up the surroundings’ stunning natural beauty: the thick forest, the humid greens, the trees’ silhouettes in the moonlight, the sunsets, the abandoned rail tracks hung above a gorge. Just like in Van Gogh’s painting, where the night sky is swirling in clouds, stars blazing with their own halos around them, and where the bright crescent moon looks after the entire dynamics.
While at time slightly sentimental and naïve, which is such a common attribute of romantic Asian movies, the film offers an enjoyable experience, which will give the viewer a pleasant 2 hours and the opportunity to see into a young girls head a little. In the end, after all settles, there’s a surprising finish, with the character directly speaking off the screen to her adult audience, pleading to handle the vulnerable 13-year old world with care and more understanding.