MOVIE REVIEW: MQFF Sisterhood

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Sisterhood is playing at Melbourne Queer Film Festival
Prescreening link provided by festival publicists
Words by Callum Needham

Having lived in Taiwan for fifteen years, after moving to marry a hostel owner, Macau-raised orphan Sei (played by Fish Liew and Gigi Leung Wing-kei) is still troubled by her abrupt separation with best friend Ling (Jennifer Yu), around the turn of the millennium. When Sei hears of Ling’s death, she finally decides to travel back to her hometown and reconnect with old friends, trying to better understand their intimate past together in the late 90s.

If you’re not used to reading subtitles then you might miss a sentence here or there at the beginning of the film, but it doesn’t take long to adjust to the pace. The subtle nuances in the script might be lost in the subtitles when translated to English, as some of the dialogue seems very wooden and cliché.

However, the heart of the film doesn’t come from the writing but from the two main protagonists Sei and Ling.  You are shown the story of how they meet and their unlikely friendship that grows, with subtle hint of something more, despite the hardships that fall upon them. Both Fish Liew and Jennifer Yu’s performances were very strong, with Fish taking out the Osaka Asian Film Festivals most promising talent award.

‘You are shown the story of how they meet and their unlikely friendship that grows, with subtle hint of something more’

Sisterhood is a very female-oriented story, focusing on the lives of four teenage girls working in the massage industry and the sexual subjection that comes with it. Most of the main cast are women and 90 precent of the males within the film are there to add a sleazy undertone. This female led story makes sense as the film was directed, edited and written by women.

The overall narrative was very well put together. You can tell that the filmmakers put a lot of time into structuring the intertwining periods of time within the film. Set in both the present day and the late 90s they used this shifting timeline to feed you relevant information exactly when you need it, doing this keeps you, for the most part, engaged in the story.

‘Set in both the present day and the late 90s they used this shifting timeline to feed you relevant information exactly when you need it’

There are some parts of the film that do seem to drag on a bit with unnecessary actions. In saying that, sections of the film do benefit from allowing the characters to develop and evolve naturally – in particular Sei and Ling and their relationship – as well as giving the story time to impact the viewer.

This is a well-constructed film with powerful performances from the younger cast, about the everyday struggles of a common life for young women working in a corrupt industry.

 

 

 

Sisterhood will be screening as part of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival (MQFF) on Wednesday March 21st at 8:00pm at ACMI Cinema 1