‘Starry Starry Night’ film review: Living a dream

March 22, 2012

Directed by Tom Lin

Starry Starry Night is a whimsical coming-of-age tale that takes a common theme — growing pains — and transforms it through exquisitely rendered CG effects and a heartfelt storyline.

Tom Lin’s second feature-length directorial effort follows the story of Mei, a 13-year-old Taiwanese girl who watches her parents’ loveless marriage crumble in divorce. To escape a broken home, Mei (Jiao Xu) immerses herself in a fantastical world of her own creation, populated by giant origami animals and a shadowy dragon. She meets a kindred spirit in Jay (Hui-min Lin), the new kid at school, and together they escape their real-life troubles by embarking on a journey to her grandfather’s isolated cottage in the mountains.

Mei’s episodes of escapism take viewers on a visually stunning trek through her imagination, which is heightened by a fanciful score. Soft cinematography gives the film a dreamlike quality, and showcases Taiwan’s mountainous terrain to great effect.

Mei’s episodes of escapism take viewers on a visually stunning trek through her imagination

Fantasy is firmly rooted in reality, however, with convincing performances by the film’s two young leads (uncommon from Hollywood’s child stars), whose quiet angst feels refreshingly authentic.

Lin often intensifies the contrast between fantasy and reality through his use of fast cuts and slow-motion effects. A scene in which Mei’s parents are arguing is interspersed with quick shots of paintings and extended shots of shattered glassware.


Lin also uses a puzzle motif as an effective metaphor for the breakdown of Mei’s family. In one breathtaking fantasy sequence, she struggles to prevent a life-size puzzle, showing the image of her family, from falling apart.

Aside from a protracted ending that seems unnecessary, but eventually pays off, Starry Starry Night perfectly captures the adolescent pain of exclusion, isolation and the realization that the world is far from perfect.

Subtitled in English, the Mandarin-language film is based on The Starry Starry Night, a picture book by Taiwanese author-illustrator Jimmy Liao, according to Variety.

Rating: 3.5/4

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