What is the story about?
Lin Shoying, a self-made restauranteur in Tainan, is getting ready to celebrate her birthday, with her daughters Jiajia, Yu and Ching, as well as with Yu's husband and daughter Clementine. However, on her birthday, she receives the news of the death of her estranged husband Chen Bouchang, who left the family years ago. As Lin decides to organize a funeral for Chen in Tainan, she struggles to reconcile with the sorrows of the past, while her daughters try to process their grief while grappling with their own issues.
Grief works in strange ways. Unfortunately, society never understands it, and expects people to mourn the passing of a family member in a certain way. But what happens if the person you are grieving for is also the one that betrayed you? Joseph Chen-Chieh Hsu's film poses these questions to the viewer and more. As the title suggests, this is a story about the women of the Lin family--born to hardship, but independent in their own right. And yet, this independence has not been always out of choice, but by compulsion. The screenplay, by Hsu and Maya Huang, underlines not just Lin's struggles at letting go of the past, but also how the lack of a paternal figure has piled insecurity upon insecurity on her three daughters, and how they cope with it in their own ways. This is another film from Netflix on the theme of loss after the superb LGBTQ romance Your Name Engraved Herein, but the loss is of another kind. Even though the screenplay lags in the second half, the film closes out with an emotionally-charged finale that will leave you reaching out for your handkerchiefs. In an age where sex and abuses are constantly celebrated on OTT platforms, this film feels like an essential palate-cleanser.
The performances are first-rate. Shu-Fang Chen delivers a nuanced, controlled performanace as the embattled Lin who struggles with grief and betrayal simultaneously. Ying-Hsuan Hsieh matches her beat for beat as her eldest daughter Ching, who struggles with her own demons. Vivian Hsu, as the "prim-and-proper" Yu, is first-rate, while Ke-Fang Sun is decent as Jiajia. But it is Ning Ding, as Tsai Meilin, who uses her silences and haunting eyes to great effect, and she shines in the second half as a result.
Music & Other Departments
Blaire Ko's score is thankfully minimal. Ying-Te Julie Chen's production design is superb.
I'll pick four sequences as my favourites: the scene at Lin's restaurant where she celebrates her birthday and tries to keep a secret from other relatives that Chen is dead; the scene at the funeral where Clementine thinks she's seen her grandfather reincarnate as a cockroach; the scene at the temple where Lin and Tsai Meilin confront each other about the past; and finally, the finale at the funeral.
The screenplay lags in the second half. To be honest, the movie couldhave been at least 15-20 minutes shorter.
Did I enjoy it?
Yes. This is a beautiful film, and can be watched multiple times.
Do I recommend it?
If you want to see a good old-fashioned drama with your family that does not involve sex or abuses, do give this film a chance.