Wei Shujun’s effortlessly impressive feature debut Striding into the Wind is an amusing and tedious dissection of two film students seeking for their place in the industry. A common starting ground for most coming of age stories, Shunjun’s unconventional and frequently formless film largely relies on the tomfoolery hijinks of the film’s rebellious simpletons. As the duo constantly retaliate and test their friendships to the very limits, Shunjun also unsubconsciously tests the audience’s patience. The end product is a beautifully hollow debut, where there’s moments of impressive technical and performance craft, though at its core lacks a certain notable career-defining gut punch. 

Where Shujun perfectly emulates the lackadaisical environment of film school, his lead protagonist Kun frequently goes through an identity crisis. His intentions are muddled, and where the shrouded mystery behind the character would usually work in a more conventional three-act film, Kun is a rather dry and boorish protagonist. In some ways, he is the anti-hero of his own story, where he drags the audience down with him, towards a pool of superfluous events. There is an admirable amount of talent and craft in Striding into the Wind. It plays well as a tribute to rebellious film students, with the casual Hong Sang-soo and Wong Kar-wai name drops sprinkled here and there. But as a narrative feature, the end product feels unfortunately incomplete, where Shujun’s immaculate usage of long takes and spacial direction overpowers a meager script.

Striding into the Wind is now available to stream at this year’s 56th Chicago International Film Festival as part of the New Directors Competition program.

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