Starring: Roy Chiu, Hsieh Ying-xuan, Joseph Huang
Director: Hsu Chih-Yen, Mag Hsu
Running Time: 100 mins
Dear Ex is a Taiwanese film about a teenager who finds himself caught in the middle of a dispute follwing his father’s death, as his mother discovers that her husband left his fortune to another lover.
While Dear Ex promises deep and intimate drama as it focuses on a family in total disarray following the death of the father, and the revelation that there was more to his life than they first thought, it’s a frustratingly one-note and often melodramatic piece, often failing to really get to the crux of the emotional turmoil of its story, and instead moving along with unbalanced and often dull windows into the lives of the three main characters at play.
The premise here is strong, and while I can’t say that the film starts off in particularly enthralling fashion, the uncertainty and growing desperation that sets in for a mother as she sees her family life turned completely upside down is something that opens up a whole world of possibilities for dramatic intrigue, while her son finds himself caught in the crossfire as he attempts to assess where he goes from here.
When it comes to the story’s focus, however, I felt that everything was just a little too poorly balanced to really make for an enthralling watch, with the majority of the plot looking at the son’s changing perceptions of his family and his own life through a period of emotional uncertainty, but often missing out on the potentially more engrossing and unpredictable turmoil of the mother.
As a result, while we learn about the impressionability of youth and the importance of family bonds from the teenage boy’s story, it’s not a plot that really has the depth and consistency to carry the movie in the way it does. Fortunately, there are looks towards both the mother and the father’s lover, although these, too, are frustratingly dull and rather disappointing to watch.
Despite the wealth of promise the story initially shows for intimate emotional drama and turmoil, it’s all a little bit one-note and melodramatic as it looks at the lives of the two adults at the centre of the story, starting them off with rather bland and one-dimensional personalities that never really changed in my eyes despite the developments of the story.
As a result, I found the core depth and development of Dear Ex to be really rather dull, and with three lead performances that don’t do all that much to endear you to or simply engross you in the characters on screen, it’s a film that I really struggled to form a strong connection with.
At times, its humour and ingenuity bring a welcome energy and life to proceedings, and there are moments of strong dramatic intrigue, but it’s a film that’s ultimately a little off-balance throughout, and one that misses the mark when it comes to delivering a genuine and well-rounded account of these three characters’ emotional psyches in a period of deep emotional turmoil, and that’s why I’m giving Dear Ex a 6.6 overall.