In Competition for the Mulberry Award for Best Screenplay
本日公休 (Ben Ri Gong Xiu)
Taiwan, 2023, 105’, Mandarin, Taiwanese
Directed by: Fu Tien-yu
Screenplay: Fu Tien-yu
Photography (color): Chang Zhih-teng
Editing: Ian Lin
Production Design: Wang Chih-chen, You Li-wun
Music: Baby-C, Cho Chi-jou, Jen Yu-yen
Producers: Wu Nien-jen, Dennis Wu, Zichi Kuo, Cheng Nien-Hsiang
Cast: Lu Hsiao-fen (A-Rui), Chen Li-chuan (Fu Meng-po), Beatrice Fong (Zhou Jia-ling), Annie Chen (Zhou Jia-xin), Shih Ming-shuai (Zhou Jia-nan), Kang Yuan (Xin’s boyfriend), Chien Hung (Xiao Ting), Chen Bo-lin (Young Farmer), Austin Lin (Andy)
Date of First Release in Territory: March 3rd, 2023
At one point during Day Off, a character says that being a hairdresser for men is much better because men are inexplicably loyal to their hairdressers. I can’t speak for other people, but as someone who has used the same hairdresser for over ten years, I can say that is at least true in my case. However, as nice as my hairdresser is, everyone should dream of having a hairdresser as saintly as A-Rui, the heroine of Day Off. Director Fu Tien-yu’s humourous and touching ode to her mother, whom A-Rui is based on, is a tribute to an ordinary woman whose little acts of kindness make her extraordinary.
A-Rui has been running her small neighourhood salon in Taichung for over 40 years. She has accumulated customers so loyal that she can call them up and remind them to get their haircuts. She respects her customers when they don’t want to talk, and as neighbours they can always rely on each other for favours. However, A-Rui’s three adult children have little time to worry about their mother – Xin (Annie Chen) works as a costume and makeup assistant on commercials, Ling (Beatrice Fong) works as a hairdresser for fussy female customers in the city, and eldest son Nan (Shih Ming-shuai) is the entrepreneurial son whose ideas seem never get off the ground. Giving off a hint of Ozu’s Tokyo Story, the doting son A-Rui wishes she had is Ling’s ex-husband Chuan (Fu Meng-po), who still regularly visits A-Rui with his son.
The family is thrown into a small turmoil when Xin finds the salon closed on an impromptu visit home. Without telling any of her kids, A-Rui has taken her old car on a trip out of town to cut the hair of a longtime customer who is too ill to visit the salon. Day Off is a lovely, feel-good movie about craftspeople who spent their entire lives perfecting one thing, in the way that A-Rui has dedicated her life to cutting hair. These people used to be common back in the old days, but they are slowly vanishing in the era of the gig economy and ample career choices, especially when more and more young people are leaving their countryside homes for the big city. In the film’s most touching scene, A-Rui nonchalantly describes how she shared a lifelong friendship with the old client despite having exchanged only a hundred sentences over the years.
That scene works so well because of star Lu Hsiao-fen. In her first film in over 20 years, Lu injects A-Rui with immense kindness and humanity, making her the true heart and soul of the film. Even without any big, showy emotional moments, Lu commands the film with quiet dignity as A-Rui goes on a transformation from a homebody to an adventurer. It’s a great comeback role that any older actor should hope to get.
The loveliest thing about Day Off is that it’s a film that rewards kindness. It tells viewers that the kindness we give away now will eventually be repaid down the road. It sounds like a cliché to call a film life-affirming, but very few films restore one’s faith in the kindness of strangers and neighbours as well as Day Off. As I get older and increasingly unfussy about my hair, I have been tempted to visit one of those express haircut joints mentioned in the film, but Day Off has not only taught me the value of being a good neighbour; it also taught me the value of being a loyal customer.
Fu Tien-yu began her creative career as a novelist. Under the encouragement of filmmaker Wu Nien-jen, she began writing film scripts. In 2009, she made her directorial debut with Somewhere I Have Never Travelled, followed by My Egg Boy in 2016. She has also directed award-winning TV films and numerous music videos. Day Off is her third theatrical feature film.
2009 – Somewhere I Have Never Travelled
2016 – My Egg Boy
2023 – Day Off