Like a game of Russian roulette, you never know who you'll end up with.
Two teenage girls make a pledge to each other to be as "man and wife" in a small Chinese fishing town. The notions of women's rights or sexual freedom are absent in their oppressive minority culture, and when one becomes happily married to a stranger, the other is cruelly betrothed to the abusive son of a wealthy family. Seeking to free herself from a lifetime of abuse, Hui-hua desperately looks for a way out.
I found out about this film through PlanetOut.com. I was looking for intelligent movies that feature gay Asian women. This movie did not disappoint. Often, film crtics are so involved in the intellectual process of filmmaking and innovative filming techniques that they forget about one of film's greatest strengths--its ability to communicate the delicate nuances of human relationships. In this respect, books will never compare. Books can describe what a character feels and how she acts, but books will never let you see the finely shifting colors of emotion that flow through a protagonist's eyes as she watches her first love betray her, her sickly child grow strong, her fears challenged, and all the emotional frontiers people encounter in life. Through a book you will never fully witness the vast variety of non-verbal cues people use to communicate with each other. And this is why movies are so engaging: non-verbal communication expressed by our bodies often say far more than the words coming out of our mouths. This kind of communication will be never captured by mere words. Certain cultures, such as Arabic-speaking and Chinese cultures are without comparison in their heavy reliance on non-verbal communication to express meaning.
I found "The Twin Bracelets" to be full of unspoken meanings. That some Chinese minority cultures encourage non-sexual intimacy between friends of the same sex brought up questions for me. Was this really a movie about the stirrings of love in the heart of a young girl for her best friend, or were these two girls merely close friends who sought to avoid the abuse of arranged marriages? Though lesbian overtones in this movie are strong, the true nature of the girls' relationship remains undefined.
As to the film's cinematography, you will find scenic views of quaint fishing boats and old wooden houses, the bustle of daily life in an ethnic minority village, beautiful shots of the seaside, and distinctly non-Chinese dress and coifs worn by the women.
The main character, Hui-hua, is both lovely and engaging. It rends my hearts to see her suffer under the restrictive and patriarchal values of her community. Even her mother, who dotes on her, blatantly asserts the importance of her brother's marriage over hers. The few moments of carefree happiness that the girls experience together seem far too short.
The film is comfortably paced and engaging at every turn. The narrative structure is fairly tight, with a clearly foreseeable climax building every step of the way. Though the outcome of the story is predictable, the characters are engaging enough so that you still wish the best for them as they stoically march into matrimony. Like a game of Russian roulette, you never know who you'll end up with.
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