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September 20, 2017

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When Love Comes (當愛來的時候)

From an individual development perspective, director Chang Tso-chi's (張作驥) "When Love Comes" (當愛來的時候) is truly a magnificent film that presents a layered plot about a polygamous Taiwanese family's struggles to cope with each family member's character flaws. However as a film that hopes to showcase the Taiwan film industry's growth on an international scale, "When Love Comes" falls short.

Yes, the directing, and acting are all brilliant, but the relationships between the characters focus on Taiwanese culture, which international audiences may find confusing. Thus, a run through the Taiwan box office and a couple of film festivals is likely in store for "When Love Comes."

The film begins with narration by 16-year-old girl Laichun, played by Li Yi-jie (李亦捷). Her father, Dark Face (黑面), played by Lin Yu-shun (林郁順), has married into Xue-feng's family as there was no male to carry on the family name. When Xue-feng, depicted by Lu Xue-feng (呂雪鳳), ends up to be infertile, she allows Dark Face to take his ex-girlfriend, Zhi-hua, depicted by He Meng-ting (何孟庭), as a concubine, who gives birth to Laichun, her sister Lairi, and a newborn boy. Growing up in this traditional yet very unique family environment, Laichun develops into a loudmouth, misunderstood teen with a twisted sense of love.

Throughout the film, the family is entangled in petty quarrels revealing the tension of a home with little or no personal space. However the main plot reveals itself, when Laichun's boyfriend knocks Laichun up and leaves her to fend for herself and her baby. The unexpected turning point opens up painful memories and brings a whirlwind of pent up frustrations that rip up the very fabric joining the family. It is only through the strength of Xue-feng that the family can continue to live under the same roof without harming each other. After a trip to Dark Face's old hometown, Jinmen, the plot takes another turn for the worse. Dark Face's years of drinking have finally caught up to him as he passes away on the steps of his old home.

Unable to deal with the untimely death of Dark Face, Xue-feng goes into a bout of depression. With Xue-feng losing her grip on the family's activities, the leadership responsibility falls to Zhi-hua. The fabulous design of this role reversal and Laichun's development into an accountable teenage mother is where Director Chang shines. Not only do the natural developments of each character bring a human value to the film, it also explores the meaning of love through different characters. It is too that "When Love Comes" is focused on the intricate details of Taiwanese society.

As an art form, film, just like music, dance or theater, reflects the culture that it is created in. Though the film certainly cannot be blamed for focusing on a traditional Taiwanese family, one wishes that Chang's next film will follow a story that can be more widely marketed for international audiences.

► Directed by Chang Tso-chi / With Li Yi-Jie, Kao Meng-jie, Lu Xue-Feng and Lin Yu-shun / Drama / Taiwan / 2010 / 106 min. / Mandarin with Chinese and English subtitles / ★★★☆☆ / Now Showing

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