Dear Ex ****
Starring: Roy Chiu, Yong-Xiang Hsieh, Spark Chen, Joseph Huang
Directors: Kidding Hsu, Mag Hsu
Taiwan has a long history of creating great LGBT Cinema. The home of Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee, the island has produced scores of LGBT movies in the last thirty years and Dear Ex is the latest to find a western release, having recently arrived on Netflix.
Sanlien’s (Hsieh) husband Zhengyuan (Chen) has recently died. Expecting a payout from his life insurance, she is appalled to find out that she was not the beneficiary, suspecting that it was actually his male lover Jay (Chiu) who inherited. Furious, she tracks him down and confronts him, but when she expects her teenage son (Huang) to support her against him, she is shocked to find that he wants get to know the man father fell in love with.
Swinging back and forth between the present and the past, we see the breakdown of Sanlien and Zhengyuan’s relationship and how he and Jay fell in love. It becomes increasingly evident that his wife fell out of love with him long ago and that her quest for the money is really her quest for recompense that her life hasn’t turned out the way she’d dreamed. Initially there are arguments, slanging matches and drama aplenty, but once the confrontations are out of the way, this is a film about how different people deal with loss and how people can forge connections in the strangest of places.
Told through the eyes of a teenager, the film is illustrated with on-screen doodle graphics, which are a fun way of embellishing the action and exploring the otherwise deadpan adolescent’s character. Music bleeds from his headphones to the soundtrack, feeling like the lines between reality, YouTube and Spotify have been blurred, doing a pretty good job at depicting a 2019 teenager on screen without wandering into tired angsty tropes.
The script is tight, the acting strong and there’s a strong directorial hand on the tiller. This character drama is a really good offering that definitely deserves more hype than it has yet received.
OUT NOW ON NETFLIX.