European Festival Premiere
My Missing Valentine
消失的情人節 (Xiao Shi De Qing Ren Jie)
Taiwan, 2020, 119’, Mandarin, Taiwanese
Directed by: Chen Yu-hsun
Script: Chen Yu-hsun
Photography (color): Chou Yi-hsien
Editing: Lai Hsiu-hsiung
Production Design: Dato Wang
Music: Lu Luming
Producers: Yeh Jufeng, Lee Lieh
Cast: Patty Lee (Yang Hsiao-chi), Liu Kuan-ting (Wu Kui-tai), Duncan Chou (Wenson Liu), Joanne Missingham (Pei Wen), Ayugo Huang (Hsiao-chi’s dad), Lin Mei-zhao (Hsiao-chi’s mom), Cres Chuang (photo shop owner), Bamboo Chen (Pixel Man), Ku Pao-ming (Gecko)
Date of First Release in Territory: September 18th, 2020
Despite the amount of imagination that is needed to make a good fantasy film, the genre often gets overlooked at film awards. That’s why the biggest delight at last year’s Golden Horse Awards was the success of whimsical fantasy romance My Missing Valentine. Writer-director Chen Yu-hsun’s first film since 2017’s The Village of No Return – and only his fifth since 1994’s Tropical Fish – was the award ceremony’s biggest winner with five prizes, including Best Film, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director. In fact, My Missing Valentine was the first comedy since Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle (2005) to take the top prizes at the Golden Horse.
My Missing Valentine is a two-hander that packs plenty of surprises in its second half, but at least I can reveal the basic setup: Post office clerk Hsiao-chi (Patty Lee, in her first starring role) has always lived one step ahead of everyone, but that means she’s always been out of sync with the world as well. After nearly 30 years of being unlucky in love, she seems to be finally getting her chance when she scores a Valentine’s Day date with handsome exercise instructor Wenson (Duncan Chou). However, Hsiao-chi somehow ends up waking up on February 15th with a terrible sunburn and no memory of Valentine’s Day ever happening. While trying to find out what happened to her “missing Valentine,” she learns that an eccentric bus driver (Liu Kuan-ting) may hold the key to the mystery.
The first half of My Missing Valentine feels deceptively aimless as it takes its time to show Hsiao-chi’s perspective, but it’ll all make sense when Chen’s cleverly laid plan is revealed in the second half. The prolonged setup also gives time for Chen to toss in hysterical antics by his large cast of offbeat characters, including Hsiao-chi’s amusingly vapid co-worker (ironically played by go prodigy Joanne Missingham), a radio host named Pixel Man whose face is literally covered in pixels, and a human gecko who recovers forgotten objects. Even Fan Zu-mei, who had a breakout role in TV series A Boy Named Flora A, steals the show in her adorable cameo as an old lady who brings an unusual package to the post office.
Chen’s fantasy gimmick doesn’t make much sense upon deeper reflection, but it doesn’t matter because the film is meant to be a fairy tale instead of a science fiction story with complex mechanics. What matters is that Chen came up with an imaginative way to show that mismatched rhythms between two people can make the best-matched couple. Chen’s most impressive trick is how he can work so hard to make audiences laugh, then wraps up the film with a heartfelt conclusion that will likely make the same audience shed a few tears. As talented as Chen’s cast is, Chen Yu-hsun himself is the true star of My Missing Valentine. Fortunately, the 59-year-old director said that the film’s Golden Horse success convinced him to put off retirement a little longer.
Chen Yu-hsun began his career in the late 1980s as a production assistant on television series. In 1994, he made his directorial debut on the acclaimed comedy Tropical Fish. His romantic comedy Love Go Go (1997) played in numerous film festivals around the world and won Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Horse Awards. After spending 13 years directing advertisements, Chen returned to feature filmmaking with box office hit Zone Pro Site (2013). My Missing Valentine (2020) is his fifth feature film.
1994 – Tropical Fish
1997 – Love Go Go
2013 – Zone Pro Site
2017 – The Village of No Return
2020 – My Missing Valentine