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Heavy Craving film review

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

★★★★

Directed by: #Pei-Ju Hsieh

Written by: #Pei-Ju Hsieh

Starring: #Jia-Yin Tsai #Yao-Jen Chang #Samantha Shu-Chin Ko

Film Review by: Max White

 


Heavy Craving, or ‘Da a’ meaning big in Mandarin, is a helping of heart-warming drama with just enough of the tough stuff. Balancing entertainment with social commentary isn’t easy, but Taiwanese director/writer Pei-Ju Hsieh blends both tastefully.


Jiang Ying-Juan (Jia-Yin Tsai) is an overweight young woman working at her family's school. Her passion’s food but her love for it only staves off her mum’s pleas for her to lose weight. The name calling is unpleasant but mostly Jiang seems okay with how she looks. It’s everyone else who’s hellbent on her becoming this so-called better version of herself.


When she meets once-fat delivery man Wu (Yao-Jen Chang) she becomes empowered to make a change. What follows is an often funny and occasionally on the nose story about self-image in a world that’s forever holding a mirror up at us.


Scenes involving the slimming camp and glowing images of lithe young people exercising and generally just being health itself (physically, if not mentally) channel certain Black Mirror episodes. And things do get weird. At one point Jiang has a fist fight with an imaginary fitness freak inside her own stomach.


Mostly though this is a film that has something to say, and the jokes and the hallucinatory stuff are all the entertainment that puts the bums on seats and that gets you to listen to the message. The sugar that makes the medicine go down. It’s about eating disorders and overweightness, yes, but a young boy’s cross-dressing character arc make it clear it's more accurate to describe the story as being about self-image and how (un)willing the world is to accept us for what we are, what we look like.


What you get from this film will depend on what you bring to it. If you’re someone who’s particularly conscious of your body image or know someone who is, the bullying and the family pressures will cut much closer to the bone. If you don’t fall into that camp, you’ll come away feeling sympathetic for those that are.


Cinematographer Hao-jan Chang’s work is razor sharp and gorgeous, while Jia-Yin Tsai shines in a role that’s perfect for her, and that probably doesn’t come around very often. She and director Pei-Ju Hsieh have made themselves exciting new talents with this debut.



 


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