In 2013, director Lien Yi-chi directed Sweet Alibis
, a delightfully off-beat and stylish murder mystery that combined the detective genre with some very dark humour and a light dash of romance. After doing two films in mainland China, Lien returns to Taiwan with All Because of Love
, another delirious and endlessly inventive genre mesh that has a few surprises up its sleeves.
Far East Film Festival audiences last year saw 20-year-old Kent Tsai as a terrifying bully in Giddens’ Mon Mon Mon Monsters
. The young actor – also the breakout star of the HBO Asia series The Teenage Psychic – does a complete 180-degree turn here as Erkan, a lovelorn high schooler desperately pining for Mandy (Gingle Wang), the class beauty and the girlfriend of the school bully. Years after Erkan’s attempt to win her heart at school ends in spectacular failure, Mandy shows up at Erkan’s doorstep for a favour: She’s pregnant with the bully’s baby, and she needs someone to take her away from her overbearing family. Hopelessly in love as ever, Erkan and Mandy elope to the Penghu Islands with the help of his grandfather (comedian and producer Hsu Hsiao-shun).
Targeted at the easily distracted YouTube generation, All Because of Love
is one of the craziest romantic comedies to come out of Taiwan in years. The script by Lien, Essay Liu and Lin Yu-chen rolls through multiple genres with breathtaking kinetic momentum before finally landing on the main story at the halfway mark: Erkan’s search for his real parents in Japan. The writers even throw a fantasy element into the mix with the introduction of Sing (model Dara Hanfman), a girl who is feared across Penghu because of her ability to read minds (characters’ thoughts literally pop up on screen as texts). Dreaming of going to Japan, Sing leaves home for the first time in years and becomes Erkan’s companion on his journey.
It’s hard to imagine how Lien pitched his weird blend of romantic comedy, Japanese teen comic book-style fantasy and classic Mandopop-infused musical to his investors, but it all somehow blends together into a colourful package that works. The energy can be exhausting at first, but it’s hard not to fall under the film’s spell once the story finds its groove in Penghu. Even when the script runs low on energy in the second half, when it falls back on familiar romcom tropes, Lien’s charming young cast – especially Hanfman as romantic interest number two – and the picturesque views of Kyoto keep the film afloat.
More importantly, Lien places his affection for Taiwan and its pop culture front and centre with All Because of Love
. It’s a love letter to the films, pop music and even comic books that influenced his generation. But instead of indulging in the rose-coloured glasses of nostalgia like recent youth films, Lien expresses his love for his inspirations with a cinematic language that appeals to a younger generation. It’s easy to get lost in Lien’s kaleidoscope at points, but it’s easy to feel his passion as a filmmaker from beginning to end.
A graduate of Taipei’s Chinese Culture University, Lien Yi-chi began his career in the entertainment industry in 2003. He would subsequently work as a location manager on Su Chao-bin’s Silk, a writer for television dramas and an assistant director on Wei Te-sheng’s Cape No. 7. He made his feature directorial debut in 2011 with Make Up, which opened the Golden Horse Fantastic Film Festival and became an official selection of the Tokyo International Film Festival. All Because of Love is his fifth feature film.