Starry Starry Night (SIFF 2012)

“Everything in life passes. Before letting go, hold on as long as you can.”

Starry Starry Night is a beautiful and richly told coming of age tale set in Taiwan. It is based on a the graphic novel “The Starry Starry Night” by Taiwanese children’s author Jimmy Liao. Liao’s bold, colorful illustrations inspire many aspects of the film from costuming to camera angles, and they are shown in their original form alongside the final credits.

Mei is the main character, a middle-schooler who finds herself feeling more and more detached from her immature peers and her arguing parents. She has learned about art, especially the Impressionists, from her mother, who studied art in Paris and now works as an art dealer in Taiwan. Their home is decorated with puzzles they have completed of notable works of art, and throughout the film Mei is working on VanGough’s Starry Night puzzle. This puzzle plays a key role in expressing Mei’s emotions as it comes together and breaks apart. When Jay, a new classmate, arrives at school, Mei is immediately taken by his quiet nature and ever-present sketch book. The two slowly become friends and develop a strong bond of trust. With Mei’s parents heading toward divorce and Jay’s family constantly moving, they become each other’s only source of support in an unstable and changing world.

This movie is definitely made for a mature audience who can appreciate the nuances of growing up and being forced to navigate through strong currents of peer pressure, young love, and family tension. While the plot of Starry Starry Night is firmly grounded in reality, many scenes are enhanced with animation sequences that highlight the characters’ emotional interactions. We see a wooden elephant that Mei’s grandfather carved for her become larger-than-life as it lumbers with slow, melancholy steps behind Mei as she walks toward the hospital to visit him. Later, numerous origami animals come to life with boisterous playfulness as Mei and Jay’s friendship becomes stronger. While these sequences may seem whimsical and out of place to some, I found them to be quite charming and they enhanced my appreciation for the intense emotions that can take over during adolescence. Overall, I think this was a very well-made film with admirable acting, a touching storyline, and surprising, yet thoroughly enjoyable, animated additions.

Provided Film Synopsis
A whimsical, visually sumptuous coming-of-age tale surrounding two lonely teens who embark on a fantasy-fueled journey in the far-off mountains in order to escape their real-world troubles. Ages 13+

Movie Details

  • Directed By:

    • Tom Shu-Yu Lin
  • Cast Members:

    • Harlem Yu
    • Hui Ming Lin
    • Janel Tsai
    • Jiao Xu
    • Kenneth Tsang
    • RenĂ© Liu
  • Countries:

    • China
    • Hong Kong
    • Taiwan
  • Languages:

    • Mandarin
  • Genres:

    • Coming of Age
    • Fantasy
    • Romance