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In this stunning coming-of-age drama, Hou Hsiao-hsien takes us to the neon-lit streets of Taiwan and the dull beige house of the Lin family. The film is centered around the eldest daughter, Lin Hsiao-yang (portrayed by the Taiwanese pop star Lin Yang), who takes care of her whole family after her mother dies and her father gains employment in another city. Her sister is too young to work, and her older brother is a petty criminal. It’s easy to empathize with her struggles—many of them are issues children shouldn’t face. But she deals with them with a silent sort of strength, with Lin Yang’s stoic face hiding some simmering resentment. Similarly, the film’s slow pace and serene framing hide the underlying violence that affects the Lin family. Juxtaposing Taiwan’s urban and suburban life, Western and Eastern aesthetics, and the film’s Egyptian mythos with the struggle of Taiwan’s youth, Hou presents a contemplative view of 1980s Taiwan.
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