Starry Starry Night – CUEAFS Critical Review.

Starry Starry Night (2011) is a Taiwanese film based upon the novel written by Jimmy Liao, following a 13 year old girl’s journey in which she tries to find herself whilst her world collapses around her. The story begins with Mei, the main character, phoning her Grandpa asking to stay with him. We then see her sitting at the train station, where snow begins to fall – this is where we see a first glimpse of her imagination, as well as seeing she is hurting. Rather than going to her Grandpa’s, she returns home suggesting she is torn as to where to go and immediately we see an awkward situation between her parents despite her father’s efforts to make her feel more comfortable. She begins to remember happy times of her family, which initiates the struggle she is going through. She makes an attempt to get her parents to get on by suggesting they finish the jigsaw, Starry Night. When they turn her down, she retires to her room and begins pulling the jigsaw apart. In a way, this suggests the jigsaw represents her family and how it is beginning to fall apart.

A new boy start’s at Mei’s school – Jay, another main character. We can see she is intrigued by Jay, following him home where he goes into a shop and begins to steal – she does the same. It is clear she is desperate to get to know him as she goes snooping through his sketches, however this backfires when the whole class start laughing at his nude drawings. Jay is distraught and whilst taking out his anger, Mei begins to imagine his shadow as some kind of monster. She soon makes it up to him by saving him from a group of bullies beating him up.

Later in the film, her Grandpa gets sick. Her father brings back a blue elephant which she asked her Grandpa to make for her. When her dad refuses to take her to see him, she takes it upon herself to visit him. The elephant comes to life on the journey again showing her imagination. She takes the elephant and asks her Grandpa to make the final leg once he is better. Heartbreakingly, her Grandpa passes away and as a way to help herself she began rebuilding the jigsaw, to find one piece missing. We see her breakdown, and the film becomes very emotional.

Jay is intrigued by her sadness, and asks her for help in a competition. This allows the two of them to get close and build a relationship. Innate objects come to life through her imagination, becoming part of her everyday life such as the animals they make out of origami. This was a really magical moment, and we see as viewers that this brings her happiness, acts as her escape. After all their hard work, their display gets ruined. Along with this, her parents decide to get a divorce. I felt I really engaged with her character because you begin to feel her hurt. Mei then sneaks out to go and find Jay, and they go off on their own. They take the train which takes a magical journey showing how Mei is lost in her own, beautiful world. She wants to take Jay to her Grandpa’s house, showing she trusts him and they have a special connection. As they spend time together, we see signs of an older relationship such as when Jay watches her shadow whilst she gets changed.

They tell each other their stories and we learn more about Jay and his abusive father, how they are on the run – this is such a crucial moment in the film because it shows the difficulties a child faces, how hurt they get. We may not always understand how a child is affected in such situations, they just get dragged along with it. They find each other when everyone else seems to have turned away and that is something really special. The film often recaps upon memories and gives the message of how we should cherish these.

They finally find her Grandpa’s house and she has a private moment. She finds the other leg for her elephant which her Grandpa hadn’t had time to get to her, a really emotional moment. She takes him to see the stars, however Jay has to rush her back to the house when she realises she is unwell, we see so much care and love from a couple so young. However, he does get chance to look up to the sky and see the beautiful stars. Mei start’s having dreams about her life in jigsaw but they all start falling apart, much like her world. She lost her grandpa, her parents divorce, now Jay was leaving her too. However when she dreams of her Grandpa, he doesn’t fall apart like the other jigsaw pieces. She then wakes up in the hospital with her mother, never to see Jay again.

Mei finally gets the final piece to her jigsaw in the post, a sort of closure. The film then moves on a few years, where Mei is older and with her younger sister. It begins to snow, similar to the beginning, something we as viewers can recognise and connect with. Her sister then notices a jigsaw puzzle in a shop window with a piece missing, to which they enter and Mei finds “Starry Night” in their with the exact piece she was missing from her jigsaw.

I really enjoyed this film and was genuinely quite touched. It gives a message which you wouldn’t typically expect, and you see situations through a child’s eyes. It reminds the viewer that it’s important to think of them too, and not treat them differently just because they are younger and they may not understand. I’m not sure whether this would be a suitable view for all, but it would be one that I would definitely recommend.

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~ by victoriasimkissphotography on May 25, 2013.

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