Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
Saturday, April 29, time 11.05 AM


By date


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A Nail Clipper Romance

Themes of trust and unconditional love come in an extraordinary package in A Nail Clipper Romance, the quirky and colourful directing debut from cinematographer Jason Kwan. Shot in Hawaii and based on a short story by producer Pang Ho-cheung, Kwan’s first feature makes for a delightful departure from Hong Kong genre norms with its ample doses of sunshine and the strange.
When surfboard maker Sean Chen (Joseph Chang) wakes from a coma, he finds himself entering an odd state of affairs. He’d wiped out while surfing, but his cousin, pals and colleagues are sure it was a post-breakup suicide attempt. Though Sean initially isn’t keen to get back into a relationship, things change when chance brings him and the mysterious Emily Lin (Zhou Dongyu) together. Their first meeting is in a bar, when she suddenly licks his face, and they follow up on that encounter after Sean drops off a surfboard at Emily’s tattoo studio.
She’s wondering why his face stung her tongue during that lick and wants to know more, and before long there’s budding romance as Sean becomes smitten with the worldly young woman. But a mighty test of trust emerges when Emily drops a bombshell, revealing that she’s a Nail Clipper Monster. “Some people like to bite their nails,” she says. “But I eat nail clippers.”
With Sean now faced with major questions, A Nail Clipper Romance gets seriously weird as Kwan serves up a series of animated inserts of Nail Clipper Monster details, covering origins, social rules and even a famous historical figure. When Sean confides in friends and they urge him to test Emily, and with one of them (Lin Chen-shi) exhibiting a long-running crush on Sean, Kwan and Co start riffing on those themes of trust and unconditional love. As the stakes rise amid Emily’s outlandish claims, how far can Sean go in believing and accepting her?
For all its strangeness, however, Jason Kwan’s film succeeds as a high-end entry to the romance genre. Chats among key players bring in thoughts on the nature of love and commitment, and the filmmakers build everything up with equal measures of light comedy and drama. The script meanwhile throws in hallmarks of Pang Ho-cheung’s cinema, offering typically offbeat flourishes and witticisms – not least in Emily’s observations on the practicalities of being a Nail Clipper Monster.
In the leads, Joseph Chang and Zhou Dongyu each make departures from past work, him playing a hunky and sensitive surfer dude and her presenting an overhauled look and acting style as a vivacious and ambiguous charmer. And Ekin Cheng, in a special appearance, is on hand to dispense words of wisdom about getting up from a fall and facing things again. Kwan, working with cinematographer Radium Cheung, presents them and the vibrant scenes of Hawaii in gorgeous imagery, and the art direction works a treat in playing up the tropical setting and having fun with an unusual business idea Emily comes up with. As Kwan lets A Nail Clipper Romance’s key themes well up and flow, even the most peculiar of concepts is no obstacle in reaching for romance cinema highs.
Tim Youngs
Film director: 
Jason Kwan
Running time: 




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