Thu, Aug 23, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Movie review: Father to Son

‘Father to Son’ fully deserves the best director award it received at the Taipei Film Awards, as it is a poignant drama revolving around a small town hardware store owner and his relationships with his father and son, fate and mortality

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Michael Huang, left, and Fu Meng-po play father and son in Father to Son.

Photo courtesy of

Much is left unsaid in Father to Son, but as relationships between fathers and sons go, especially in Asian culture where affection is not always openly expressed, how much can be explicit?

The storylines and relations seem complicated in this poignant, subtle drama as it follows a 60-year-old, still rather dashing Fan Pao-te (Michael Huang, 黃仲崑), who falls ill at the beginning of the film and tries to come to terms with mortality and closure, especially with his father, who abandoned the family when he was young to seek his fortune in Japan.

Fan and his son (Fu Meng-po, 傅孟柏) are the focus of the main plot, but the film also spotlights many other characters while flashing back throughout Fan’s childhood and young adulthood. The parallels among fathers and sons, especially the relationships — or lack thereof — are apparent and it’s clear that history repeats itself in this small southern town. But fate can also be changed.

The cinematography is stunning, and director Hsiao Ya-chuan (蕭雅全) chooses his backdrops well. Although the story is set mostly on one street in a sleepy, nondescript town, it fully makes use of the notion of being stuck in time with an old hotel, a traditional laundry shop with a sign emblazoned with black and gold calligraphy and a Japanese era-style hospital with terrazzo floors and long, narrow hallways. Even the hostess club that Fan and his buddy frequent, the roadside stall where they drink or Fan’s hardware store are shot in a way that creates an air of the fantastic even though it’s clear that this is reality.

Is this 2018 or 1987? Although the flashbacks are made clear in black and white, sometimes it is hard to tell until someone whips out the latest model smartphone — and then things become blurred again as people are seen smoking in offices and restaurants when Fan visits Japan. Maybe it doesn’t matter, as some things simply don’t change no matter what the era.

Film Notes

Father to son 范保德

Directed by:Hsiao Ya-chuan (蕭雅全)

Starring: Michael Huang (黃仲崑) as Fan Pao-te, Fu Meng-po (傅孟柏) as Fan Ta-chi, Long Shao-hua (龍劭華) as A-Kao

Languages: Taiwanese, Mandarin and Japanese with Chinese and English subtitles

Running time: 116 minutes

Taiwan release: in theaters

Through Fan’s father, the story also stretches back to post-war Taiwan, depicting a society that still retains some of its old Japanese connections, and where people would prefer to head overseas to make it big than stay at home as a nobody.

This is Hsiao’s third feature film since 2010’s Taipei Exchange (36個故事), continuing his poetic style of never directly tackling the subject but instead telling the story through delicate sentiments and subtle relationships. Although the film seems all over the place at the beginning, as the plot progresses, nothing is superfluous as there’s a whole backstory spanning many decades that slowly ties things together.

Although Fan chose a simple life as a hardware store owner and amateur inventor, he’s highly intelligent and deeply philosophical, making for a complex character that’s intriguing from the very beginning as he heads out to fix a friend’s electrical problem with his tools around his belt as if he were a cop heading to solve a crime.

His counterpart is his buddy A-kao (Long Shao-hua, 龍劭華), the carefree owner of a fruit store, who, although is not a major part of the film, does a brilliant job in providing chuckles and dragging Fan into his shenanigans. His elated expression when Fan, who had abstained from drinking since he fell ill, finally took a sip of beer, is priceless.

Fu also delivers a good performance as the son, and even though father and son do not seem to exchange many words, their affection and love for each other are clearly felt.

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