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These are some thoughts I had after watching the movie Drifting Flowers. Strictly speaking it is probably not a movie review, but I do hope the following will arouse your interest in checking out this movie if you haven’t yet. Just to give you some background information first. This movie is directed by a famous Taiwanese lesbian director, Zero Chou, whose last movie Spider Lilies has received great popularity. In my opinion, as well as in many critical reviews I’ve read, Drifting Flowers is claimed to be a step up from her previous movie. The movie is divided into three stories. Each story is independent of the others, but the main characters are interrelated through different times.
Each story has its highlight. Although I liked all three of them, the second story left the strongest impression than the other two. Why is that? I guess the old saying “people tend to remember pain than happiness” may be used to explain.
The first story is about the intertwined love between two sisters, Meigo and Jing, and a handsome tomboy, Diego. Seven-year-old Meigo lived with her blind older sister Jing, who earned a living by singing in a restaurant lounge. Diego met Jing after she joined the band at the restaurant and soon developed feeling for her. The relationship between Diego and the two sisters became increasingly closer as the days passed, and eventually Jing and Diego fell into love. Meigo, on the other hand, also developed feeling for Diego, but given her young age, the feeling was more innocent than romantic. One night, when Meigo accidentally saw the two of them kissing, she was so upset that she started to reject Jing’s affection for her. When Jing decided to send her to a wealthy host family for Meigo’s own good so that Meigo could focus on study rather than staying up late for accompanying her to the lounge every night, Meigo took this as a sign that Jing wanted to steal Diego from her completely. Because of the request of the host family, Jing could not visit Meigo until she turned eighteen. I wasn’t particularly touched by the first part of the movie, but when Meigo met with Jing and Diego years after, I was truly impressed. The first thing that caught Meigo’s eyes as soon as she walked into the room was Diego’s hand still intimately holding Jing’s after all those years. Meigo was teary-eyed by this loyalty and support in their love. This sentiment of support was carried on in the second part of the movie.
The second story is about Lily and Yen, who married each other to mask their respective homosexual lifestyles. The story really starts years after the marriage when both are old. Lily is suffering from Alzheimer’s after her partner, Ocean passed away. Yen, who broke up with his partner and who was suffering from AIDS, showed up to visit Lily. At that time in Taiwan, unlike straight couples, who get to have lovers, friends, and family, queer couples often have to give up friends and family if they choose their queer partner. Cruelly, as Yen put, “Nobody is going to be there forever”, sometime they will have to part with their lover due to death or simply the vanish of love. At that point, they could have lost the whole world. Although their marriage is merely a mask for Yen’s relationship with John, and Lily’s relationship with Ocean, at the end they are living together to support each other. Living with Lily was not part of Yen’s plan at all. After breaking up with his boyfriend, Yen, who was infected with AIDS, came to visit Lily, his legal wife. Lily, who was sick, was desperate when Yen was walking out of the door as she mistook Yen as Ocean. When Yen was walking on the street, he was taken aback and realized he did not know where to go. He decided to go back and live with Lily. I was really touched by seeing the two of them sitting together on the platform at the train station. Although they were not in love with each other, it did not interfere with them caring for each other. The glow of youthfulness had long been over worn. A sentiment of supportive intimacy was filled in the air while the two old people peacefully watched the training travelling in the passing of time. I wondered, had Lily see her future like this, would she still choose to be in relationship with Ocean? Youth is good because it gives us courage to face the future no matter how hard it may seem to be, but youth is bad, because it is too impulsive to let us do a cost-benefit analysis before making major decisions. I’m not saying that Lily is definitely not going to fall in love with Ocean if she could go back to change everything, because the effect of love is hard to measure. Maybe she will not change anything, because every second she gets to spend with Ocean will be worth anything, including the loneliness that is killing her after Ocean passed away. I have the same question for Yen, but regardless of the answer, I think both of them are living a satisfied life now.
The final story of the movie is many people’s favorite, because it is light, youthful, and full of hope. In this part, time was turned back several years to tell the story of teenager Lily and Diego. Diego was going through gender identification and sexual orientation problems at the time. Diego’s brother sees her as a threat to his inherence of the family business, and one night, he taunted her about her sexual orientation in front of their grandfather. Depressed Diego called June, the girl she likes, but learnt that June is dating a boy. Just when Diego got even more frustrated, she saw Lily, whom she met earlier at the stage show. Lily was going through relationship problems too, but she was very clear of her self-identify and courageous to face her homosexuality. Lily and Diego spent the night together chatting with each other. Diego, who used to have a complicated mixed feeling about her identity and what she wants, was starting to have a clear picture about her life after their conversation. When the morning comes, teenager Lily asked teenager Diego what would become of them in the future. Diego decided to leave the town, live an independent life, and find a girl she loves. Lily wished to find a girl who would love her. Their smiles full of hope were two beautiful marks in that morning after rain. After the gloomy atmosphere shrouding the second story, many people are very happy with the last story because it seems to be a resolved ending filled with hope. For me though, I did feel a sense of peace at first, but then I had a panicky feeling as I thought of the painful lives Lily had to go through after Ocean passed away and before Yen showed up in her life after many years. Who would have happened to Diego, to Jing? Did they maintain their relationship? Were they happy? I could not help doubt that the ending is meant to be ironic when I think of its connection to the second story. It left me with plenty of room to imagine.
Overall I think Drifting Flowers reveals a rich story of several interrelated characters. The story-telling takes an approach from several angles so that it is not a one-sided story. Not only is it sentimental in the details, it also tells the whole story from a wide scope that I think will allow people at different stages of life to connect.
Drifting Flowers can be found in the Reelout Lending Library (336A Barrie Street) in our Foreign Language Section. Call us at (613)549-REEL for more information.