Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
Friday, April 28, time 5.15 PM


By date


By title


Soul Mate

July (Ma Sichun) and Ansen (Zhou Dongyu) couldn’t possibly be more different from each other – one is grounded and guarded, and the other is bold and reckless. Yet, the pair have been inseparable best friends since they were 13 years old. Their friendship is tested, however, when they both fall for the handsome Jiaming (Toby Lee). Over the next decade, the two girls drift in and out of each other’s lives until a life-changing event brings them back together.

After spending 15 years as production assistant, actor and finally co-director, Derek Tsang finally gets his chance to shine as a filmmaker with his first solo feature film. Adapting a web novella by China’s Qing Shan with Peter Chan (Tsang’s first employer 15 years ago) guiding the way as producer, Tsang proves himself to be a surprisingly effective choice for this poignant tale of female friendship.
With youths making up much of China’s ticket-buying audience, the film industry has seen an influx of coming-of-age romances, including So Young, Fleet of Time, Left Ear, My Old Classmate and countless more. Like So Young, Soul Mate stands out above the rest with solid directorial technique, a refreshing female-centric focus and a script (by four female writers!) that emphasises character dynamics over exposition. Soul Mate seems to be treading familiar territory on the surface, but it does so with genuine emotions and a confident filmmaker behind the camera. 

Soul Mate also owes much of its success to Tsang’s ability as an actor’s director, leading his two stars to impressive performances that made them the first joint best actress winners in Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards. Zhou, who spent most of her career thus far in innocent girl-next-door roles, gives a breakthrough performance as the free spirit Ansen. Offering a performance that’s like a fleshed-out and more serious extension of her cameo role in Ning Hao’s Breakup Buddies, Zhou is unpredictable and always captivating in this game-changing career move.
On the other end of the personality spectrum, July makes the perfect yin to Ansen’s yang. July is a less flashy character to play, but Ma shows dramatic gravitas as the solid anchor that grounds the core relationship. Whether it’s a heartfelt conversation in bed or an intense argument in a bathroom, Soul Mate is at its best when Ma and Zhou are on screen together.

With the kind of critical success that Soul Mate has earned – including seven nominations at the Golden Horse Awards and 12 nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards – it’s easy for Tsang to get tempted into taking on big-budget commercial projects, especially in a rapidly growing film market like China’s. One can only hope that Tsang will resist the temptation and continue to exploit his talent for strong character-based films in the future.
Kevin Ma
Film director: 
Derek Tsang
Running time: 




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