Mama Boy


Mama Boy
初戀慢半拍 (Chu Lian Man Ban Pai)

Taiwan, 2022, 98’, Mandarin 
Directed by: Arvin Chen 
Screenplay: Sunny Yu, Arvin Chen
Photography (color): Jake Pollock 
Editing: Chiang Yi-ning 
Production Design: Huang Mei-ching
Music: Wen Hsu
Producer: Aileen Li
Cast: Kai Ko (Xiao-hong), Vivian Hsu (Sister Lele), Yu Tzu-yu (Meiling), Fandy Fan (Weijie), Yao Chih-ying (Mei-xiu), Phil Hou (Wen-hao), Lin Ting-yu (Apple), Chu Lu-hao (Lao Wu), Joanne Missinham (Girl in Aquarium), Huang Hsin-yao (Man in the Bar)

Date of First Release in Territory: TBA


Nine years after Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?, director Arvin Chen finally returns to feature filmmaking with Mama Boy, an eccentric portrait of a late bloomer who gets a long-overdue lesson on love. Chen’s eye for delicate and unusual love stories is as sharp as ever, resulting in a sweet and light-as-a-feather romantic comedy with a melancholic edge. 
Continuing a remarkable career rebound, Kai Ko stars as titular “Mama Boy” Xiao-hong, a shy 29-year-old fish store worker who lets his overprotective mother Meiling (Yu Tzu-yu) call the shots on everything in his life. While the overbearing matriarch has been a staple in Asian-American cinema of recent years, Chen frames Xiao-hong’s willingness to be in Meiling’s bubble as a case of arrested development rather than a cultural trait. 
After hearing about Xiao-hong’s failed blind date, his cousin decides to take him to a sleazy local hotel where Sister Lele (Vivian Hsu) oversees its prostitution business. Instead of falling for one of the prostitutes, Xiao-hong ends up being enamored with Sister Lele. Despite Meiling’s watchful eye, Xiao-hong attempts an awkward courtship. However, as their unlikely bond develops, it appears that Sister Lele sees Xiao-hong as a replacement for her wayward adult son (Fandy Fan), with whom she shares a contentious relationship. 
Mama Boy will inevitably invite comparisons to last year’s Grit, which also stars Ko as a slightly awkward young man romancing an older woman. However, Grit trades Mama Boy’s  Freudian undertones for a more grounded story with gangsters and real estate conflicts. With cinematographer Jake Pollock (Wu Xia, Starry Starry Night), Chen creates a whimsical, fairy tale-like tone that recalls Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love (while one shot is practically lifted from Anderson’s Magnolia). While the film isn’t nearly as oddball as Anderson’s unconventional romantic comedy, Mama Boy is also a strangely sweet and unabashedly romantic fairy tale with an unlikely pairing and grimy backdrop. 
By the end, Mama Boy reveals itself to also be a melancholic tale of a late bloomer’s coming of age, a transition made convincing by Ko’s uncharacteristically introverted performance. Ditching the youthful swagger he exuded in his early roles and Giddens Ko’s recent fantasy blockbuster Til We Meet Again, Ko is surprisingly believable as shy man-child who didn’t dare to go against his mother’s control until love enters his life. After her fantastic performance in the 2020 domestic drama Little Big Women, Vivian Hsu delivers another immensely likeable performance that makes Sister Lele a credible romantic interest for Xiao-hong. 
Ko and Hsu don’t seem like a credible pairing on paper, but by the time that Xiao-hong and Sister Lele share an impromptu dance set to the classic Anita Mui ballad Intimate Lover, it’s hard not to root for them. In a film industry heavily saturated with romances, Mama Boy stands out as the shy, slightly off-kilter outcast that deserves to be treasured. 

Arvin Chen 

Born and raised in the U.S., Arvin Chen began his film career under director Edward Yang. He made his feature directorial debut with Au revoir Taipei (2010), which won the Best Asian Film Award from the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema at the Berlin Film Festival. His comedy-drama Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (2013) earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Asian Film Awards and the FIPRESCI Prize at the Hong Kong International Film Festival. Mama Boy (2022) is his third feature film. 


2010 – Au revoir Taipei 
2013 – Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? 
2022 – Mama Boy

Kevin Ma
Film director: Arvin CHEN
Year: 2022
Running time: 98'
Country: Taiwan
25/04 - 7:10 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
25-04-2022 19:10 25-04-2022 20:48Europe/Rome Mama Boy Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine