Of nostalgia and innocence: Starry Starry Night

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Artistically photographed and wonderfully written, Starry Starry Night is a poignant tale revolving two kindred souls, Mei and Jay, and their difficult journey towards adulthood. Based from the best-selling novel of the same title by Jimmy Liao, a famous Taiwanese illustrator, this film did not stir away from its origin’s charms—creating gorgeous computer graphics of colorful origami animals and even a magnificent moving version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

The film tells about the life of Mei, a 13-year old student, fighting her way out of her parent’s fading romance and the death of her beloved grandfather through imagination; finding solace in escaping reality during its hardest moments. Mei found companionship in Jay, a quiet, isolated boy who turns to his sketchbook to hide scars from his abusive father and overall dysfunctional family. When the two found themselves stuck in a reality they both don’t want to be in, they set foot on a journey looking for stars, momentary happiness and perhaps, love.

Directed and written (screenplay) by Tom Lin in 2011, Starry Starry Night bagged various awards and nominations during its release and amongst these are, Best Cinematography (Jake Pollock) in the 2012 Asia-Pacific Film Festival and Audience Award Feature at N.Y. International Children’s Film Festival way back in 2013.

Although the visual style and youthful romance might remind some audience of Gondry and Anderson’s (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Moonrise Kingdom) work, Lin did not fail in putting his own touch in the film. He told Mei’s story in such a sincere and emotional way that would captivate any type of audience and would generate tears even in the most silent and ordinary scenes. Of course, he achieved this with the help of Jiao Xu’s endearing portrayal of Mei and Hui-Min Lin’s (Jay) natural innocence. It is also thanks to the technical aspects of the film; from its beautiful and timely visual, stunning art direction and post-production, which resulted into magnificent woven scenes exuding warmth, innocence and honesty through its colors, settings and overall feel. These helped in fulfilling the gaps that the too common soundtrack admittedly failed to fill.

While it is agreeable that Lin used a very obvious metaphor in the shape of a missing puzzle piece, it is still a necessary element, since it made way for one of the most powerful scenes to take hold in the film which was the dream sequence, wherein Mei watched her life fall apart into tiny puzzle pieces while desperately trying to catch them using her small hands. It is an excellent depiction of every person’s greatest horror—to see everything they have believed in, quickly crumble before their eyes.

Furthermore, the missing puzzle piece strengthens the film’s message, which is finding the brightest star and using it as a map to lead one back in the person or place it belongs. It is perhaps the reason why it begins and ends on Christmas Eve, to show the viewers that no matter what happens, everyone will find their own way home—that even people possessing the loneliest of hearts, have the capability to belong.

By far, it is obvious that the Starry Starry Night’s secret lies in its simplicity and in its power to grasp the audience’s emotions by simply keeping it real. In spite of the film losing its initial voice and inclining way too much in its first-love story line, Lin still deserves an applause for managing to show a wonderfully crafted film mixed with a huge amount of melancholy and art.

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