Ah yes, the desperate craving for normalcy. In our current pandemic lock-down mode, we’ve all experienced a glimmer of nostalgia of a life that used to be. Whether it’s reminiscing about a favorite restaurant joint or even just the basic nature of human contact, the last five months or so have been a devastating blow to all of our social lives. Though nothing can compare to the trials and tribulations of Chen Po-ching and Chen Ching; the lead protagonists in the latest Taiwanese film I WeirDO. An obsessive compulsive romantic comedy of errors, the film follows the iconic duo as they slowly and gradually adapt and fall in love with one another and their own intricate compulsions. Unlike what was advertised on surface value, the film actually has much more going for it beyond the simple mental health punchline.
I WeirDO is actually the first ever Asian fiction film to be entirely shot on an iPhone. Similar to the results of Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane, the iPhone camera is used to progress the storytelling and central perspective of the characters, rather than just some troubling gimmick. The dizzying results adds a layer of hyper-realism, making each shot feel even more grounded within the small-scale narrative. Using clever phone-based aspect ratios shifts; the switch between vertical and landscape is a nice touch into the ever-evolving mindset of our two lead protagonists.
As the story shifts into a more tragic tale, the world of I WeirDO becomes more deteriorated; as if the phone recording these events is slowly running out of storage. A memory bank losing space to store one’s own relationship. From the crisp and detailed visuals featured in it’s opening vertical act, the slow shift to more nature-based shots and muted colors in full screen is a clever re-incorporation of the character’s promises, misdeeds, and ultimate resolution. The finale may be ambiguous, though the commentary regarding the relationship is one that adds conversation to the film’s already dense script. There’s no doubt that the film is a heavy offender of quirky romantic comedy cliches, but it’s more so in the execution of it’s resounding climax that adds humanity and honesty into what was already a brilliant concept.
Backboned by the stellar performances from relative newcomers Nikki Hsieh and Po-Hung Lin, a destined future in more ambitious international feature projects should be coming at them at a fast trajectory. If anything, it’s a remarkable feat in how their individual performances enhanced the realism, stakes, and relatability of their roles. Simplistic, articulate, and defined by its cellular creative vision, Ming-Yi Liao’s I WeirDO is a whimsically charming exercise in perspective and minimalist visual storytelling.
I WeirDO screened digitally at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival, as part of the festival’s Cheval Noir competition