A Delightful Subversion of the Time Loop Romcom – My Missing Valentine (SIFF 2021 Review)

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Everyone can relate to the feeling of time passing them by. As of recently, days are suddenly over in a blink. Being alive is a constant grapple with the temporal continuum that ultimately we are all destined to lose. That’s why doing things, making memories, forming connections are integral to the human experience. We stop focusing on what we lose when we start to realise what we’re gaining. We have a complicated relationship with time already — which is what makes My Missing Valentine all the more fascinating.

In the film, we’re introduced to two individuals: A Tai (Kuan-Ting Liu) and Yang Hsiao-chi (Patty Pei-Yu Lee). For A Tai, he seems to process the world slightly slower than everyone. For Yang, she already seems to be slightly ahead. You might already be able to notice a kinship between these two, but My Missing Valentine throws a curveball — the two hardly ever share the screen together. Instead, we are led through two recollections of the same day, once from Yang and once from A Tai, centered around the ‘missing’ day in which Yang experiences, that all occurs on Valentine’s Day.

This subversion provides some intelligent complications to the romcom genre with its creative reflexivity and narrative strength. It’s an unconventional direction to structure a romcom, allowing it to stand out from the typical formulaic traps it dodges. While the film might not be for everyone, the idea of reliving a day from two different perspectives and their collisions is incredibly fascinating, and one I’ve wondered about for a while. In Yang’s perspective, she feels so physically fast. The viewer is unable to match her energy through a combination of fast performance and slick editing; through what feels like sequences that are ever-so-slightly sped up. Patty Pei-Yu Lee is super sweet, building an immediate emotional connection through her gestures and expressions. There’s a moment in its final scene which will make your heart burst at the syrupy sweetness of Pei-Yu Lee’s performance — encapsulating this breaking of an emotional dam, allowing us to be caught up in the rawness of it all.

Still Courtesy - SIFF
Still Courtesy – SIFF

The Valentine’s Day mystery creatively complicates the romcom structure, compelling you into a fascination with the film’s unexpected development — it feels like a Taiwanese fusion of Your Name and Rene Clair’s Paris qui dort; two brilliant romcoms complicated by cosmic circumstances that accentuate the film’s material. It’s an inversion of the time loop twist we’ve become accustomed to twisting the romcom with — in this case, time is trying to be regained rather than ended.

Memories lie at the heart of My Missing Valentine. Through both a recollection of shared events from different perspectives, to the formalistic stylings of its kinetic editing — encapsulating a life from childhood to adulthood through a picture-book-esque editing style — which is no easy feat. This thematic focus of memory is further entwined with the shared history of Yang and A Tai. But to say any more would be to spoil a touching tapestry that’s best explored on your own. However, there are some delightfully fantastical elements that directly tie into both A Tai and Yang’s stories, delivering on some quite wacky but quietly emotional beats that’ll take you by surprise. There’s a slight magic that accentuates every fibre of My Missing Valentine’s being, but what kind of magic is difficult to put into words . You feel a sense of strange nostalgia for what’s on screen, and the journeys of A Tai and Yang — as though you’ve lived the same feelings they feel.

My Missing Valentine is a sweet exploration of memories, connection and re-connection with a self-confident style that isn’t afraid to take some left-turns — so long as the road they’re on leads to an emotionally touching destination.

Still Courtesy – SIFF

My Missing Valentine screened at this year’s 47th Seattle International Film Festival.

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Sab Astley

Lover of all things horrifying, dark and satirical - The Rocky Horror Picture Show being one of my favorites makes sense there.

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