Review: Dear Tenant

Written and directed by Yu-Chieh Cheng, a boy lives with his Grandma and Mr. Lin, the tenant who looks after him and Grandma. But when Grandma passes away, the boy’s uncle returns to Taiwan and discovers that ownership of the apartment was transferred to other people. Starring: Morning Tzu-Yi Mo, Shu-Fang Chen, Run-yin Bai, Chun-Yao Yao, Jay Shih, Chiung-Hsuan Hsieh and Ko-Yuan Wang.

Dear Tenant sets an earnest atmosphere right out of the gate that continues throughout, it has a mix of sadness, love and mystery. It moves patiently to gradually reveal itself, moving backwards to discover the path to the jail cell Lin (Tzu-Yi Mo) finds himself in. The tone of sorrow only deepens as time goes on, you’ll keep expecting that it can’t possibly become more sad and yet it does. It’s consistently heart-breaking to watch, it requires some patience from its viewers but its subtly captivating quality sneaks up on you, until that patience is no longer needed. It tells a classic tale of discrimination, pain, loss and how doing the right thing doesn’t always work in your favour.

Yu-Chieh Cheng’s directorial style is extremely understated, befitting the tone of its drama. It builds a feeling of helplessness, follows the story’s humble path and gives a very personal air to this intimate drama. While it doesn’t try to add unnecessary glamour, it does step things up a notch with some high quality landscapes, capturing beautiful mountainside scenes. Weaving between those and their city based life, feels like an effective way to split past from present and explore the film’s bigger picture. For the most part its use of colours are muted and it stays close to its characters, it has a sincere focus on their journey and emotions, drawing you in and building an investment in their characters.

Morning Tzu-Yi Mo and Run-yin Bai have a complex and endearing father-son style relationship. The two actors display the degree of separation between them but also the genuine connection and love that they share. There’s a clear mutual respect at play that remains even in their strained moments. Shu-Fang Chen adds another layer as Grandma, bringing a sincere struggle. Chun-Yao Yao, Jay Shih, Chiung-Hsuan Hsieh and Ko-Yuan Wang round out the cast well, each of them have an angle and certain emotion to add to the story.

Dear Tenant is a moving, captivating and heart-breaking drama. It moves slowly but surely through an incredibly touching tale of complicated relationships and kindness. The whole cast are a great ensemble who really tap into the earnest nature of this story, never leaning into something more overtly dramatic, keeping things at an understated tone. That tone is then matched well by the direction, mixing between lovely natural, wide open vistas and an intimate home setting. It initially asks you to be slightly patient but before you know it, you’ll have forgotten it asked.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯

Available now exclusively on Bohemia Euphoria

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