Lin Jing-jie's (林靖傑) directorial debut, The Most Distant Course (最遙遠的距離), is one of the most talked-about art-house movies of the year, attracting attention with a high-profile cast led by actress Guey Lun-mei (桂綸鎂) and a story about lone individuals struggling to find their inner selves.
The film follows three emotionally and spiritually crippled Taipei urbanites who are alienated from society.
Psychiatrist A-tsai (Jia Xiao-guo, 賈孝國), who has a talent for piercing the souls of his patients but is unable to cure his own wounds, journeys to Taitung in search of a lost love.
Young sound recordist Tang (Mo Zi-yi, 莫子儀) is a mess after being dumped by his girlfriend. Hoping to salvage the relationship, Tang circumnavigates Taiwan, recording sounds of the island and sends tape after tape labeled "Sounds of Formosa" to his lover's apartment, now tenanted by Yun (Guey Lun-mei), an office worker suffocated by daily routines and her involvement in a love triangle.
Gradually brought back to life by the simple sounds of the land, Yun sets out on a journey to trace the source of the recordings. The three travelers have different reasons for escaping the capital, but their goal is the same: to find their true selves, which have long been buried and forgotten in the monotony and travails of life.
The script was originally written for director Lin's close friend Chen Ming-tsai (陳明才), an actor who suffered from bipolar disorder and took his own life at Dulan Bay (都蘭灣), Taitung, one year after the screenplay was finished. Nevertheless, hoping to reflect the quest for truth and reality, Lin saw the project through.
The scene near the end of the film in which the psychiatrist snorkels on the freeway in a diving suit echoes the uncompromising spirit of the late artist who, in the eyes of Lin, refused to become a part of mainstream society and chose to walk a lone path rarely understood by others.
Directed by: Lin Jing-jie (林靖傑)
Starring: Guey Lun-mei (桂綸鎂) as Yun, Mo Zi-yi (莫子儀) as Tang, Jia Xiao-guo (賈孝國) as A-tsai
Language: In Mandarin with Chinese and English subtitles
Running Time: 118 minutes
Taiwan Release: Today
Though the story behind the film sounds depressing, the movie is beautifully shot and interspersed with humor. Mo is decently cast, while Jia delivers a slightly theatrical performance for the role originally written for Chen. Now a regular lead in local productions, Guey exposes her limits as she struggles to express the feelings of the paramour.
Although The Most Distant Course won the best film accolade at the International Critics' Week in Venice and the special jury award at the Taipei Film Festival (台北電影節), the plot is predictable and the story feels a little too familiar. The juxtaposition of gloomy urban landscapes and colorful, soothing scenes of nature is formulaic to the point of being cliche. Despite that, the movie does touch viewers' hearts.