It’s been a long time since I was so emotionally moved by a movie. In some respects, there isn’t anything terribly original but the strong acting and visuals make for a really magical experience. It’s more about emotion and imagination than story and plot.
The girl, Xiao Mei (Xu Jiao) really carries the movie and she has a very expressive face but can also be subtle and nuanced. Reading her emotions becomes engrossing in itself. The boy, Xiao Jie (Lin Hui min) is not bad in his role although he has much less to work with. Together they make a cute couple that are hard to resist. They both have or have had unpleasant experiences yet with each other they come to realize how lucky they are. Characters besides these two are vague in their characterization at best but one can interpret the movie as being from the young adolescent’s perspective from whom information is often withheld. Xiao Mei is often told to go to her room while her parents argue with French music obscuring their words.
The use of CG animation is aesthetically pleasing yet also represents the emotions of the characters. They are enchanting and whimsical for the most part but there is one particularly disheartening sequence of crumbling puzzle pieces that is executed effectively. European art also helps inspire some of the visuals which shouldn’t surprise considering the title is the same as that of a Vincent Van Gogh painting but with an extra Starry for good measure. The movie is based on an illustrated novel of the same name by Jimmy Liao, one which I hope to seek out and read.
This is a film where you might laugh at one moment only for tears to form at the next moment. Starry Starry Night was pure magic for me. I’ve read a couple less enthusiastic reviews that seem to expect more from the romance but for me it was an amazing piece of escapism with the right mix of real life and fairy tale.
To go on a tangent, I quite enjoyed hearing Kwai Lun Mei speak French although I should have not been surprised since apparently she studied in France at one point. She makes a brief appearance at the end as a grown up Xiao Mei.
To go on another tangent, there was a short film called Yukuharu (directed by Jason Gray) that opened before Starry Starry Night. It was the perfect compliment to the main feature with some laughs and sadness. Yukuharu was about a Japanese girl who has a boy admirer but encounters a devastating event at home.