First Taiwan-based movie by Chinese vet Yonfan is more a film with its roots in the anti-Communist era. Prince of Tears painstakingly recreates the feel of the early 1950s, and especially the convivial atmosphere and what it must have felt to grow up with the poverty and hardship of that era. The rest of the story centers on this one family of four who live in a military compound. Beyond one scene showing executions, the full horror of the white terror is never shown; it seems more of a dramatic device to remove and insert characters at will.
It’s good that Yonfan is able to tell a story that has such an ugly period in Taiwan’s history as its background because Prince of Tears isn’t necessarily a good movie. Moreso, it is an important movie. To some, Prince Of Tears might seem overly dramatic. But, to those who are familiar with Chinese culture, the film might ring true. Some of the most interesting footage is the documentary material — recordings, film and photos — that plays at the opening of the film and accompanies the credits at the end. Ultimately, Prince of Tears is about the quality of friendship and its obligations and pitfalls. Their lives and loves intertwine until everything erupts in a rhapsody.
Whether all this makes real sense or not is up to the audience’s tolerance, and for me, personally speaking, I thought this was a powerful ride. The innocence of the two young girls clashes with the hard realities of adult life in an increasingly paranoid Taiwan as Yonfan masterly weaves together the various plot strands. To top if off, the ambiguous lesbian relationship caused this film to get slapped with an NC-16 rating. Also, it should go without saying that this film is gorgeous to look at, whoever was in charge of finding the settings and colors is a genius.
Without prior acting experience, Zhu is relatively skillful playing a submissive wife and bringing out complex emotions. It is a heavy role to take on and I think she did a believable job. As more a tale of personal betrayal than a depiction of a nation going through turmoil, the film might travel reasonably well in Asia but I’m quite sure Western audiences might write this film off and it will probably be forgotten about. Shame, as this is a very important film that could open up a lot of eyes in the States and give a preview to how these people live and act as a product of their environment. This thought-provoking movie is full of emotional exploration. Thumbs up!