18 Reviews
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Here and Now (2018– )
22 February 2018
What A Pretentious Pile of Pathos - yep can't say that, it's been said. Tired Alan Ball dreck - yep can't say that, it's been said. That was a waste of time... - yep can't say that, it's been said. The worst thing I've ever seen - yep can't say that, it's been said (OK, not the worst ever) Truly Awful - yep can't say that, it's been said. The second episode is just bad - yep can't say that, it's been said.

Seriously, this is a writer so far up his own ass there is no daylight. My eyes hurt from rolling them so much. Stop trying to be important and relevant with long philosophical sentences that you think will go down in history as amazing words of wisdom and get real. #notauthentic
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Amazing Hapa story!
12 May 2012
Let's be clear about where this review is gonna go. Lily Mariye has created an amazing film of complex characters that is driven by an outstanding performance by lead actress Nicole Bloom in her first feature film role. Not only does Nicole command your attention, but she has the ability to weave through the diversity of her character's emotions without banging the audience over the head with extremes. No doubt she and the other actors have the director to thank for defining all the characters carefully without making them dramatic, dull or one dimensional. While the film deals with an interracial family and some of the issues specific to being hapa, it doesn't diminish the fact that the issues of family, adolescence, love and pain cannot be understand and the characters being relatable to anyone who sees the film. The story is original, insightful and in the end thought provoking showing the trial and tribulations of life and growing up along with all the hope and joy that life has to offer. In case you didn't read the first couple of sentences or forgot already, this is a film to put on your "must see" list.
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Open for laughs
14 March 2012
Richard Wong's "Yes, We're Open" starring Parry Shen & Lynn Chen as a couple contemplating the adventure of having an open relationship, tackles the subject in a very funny way and yet manages to come full circle in the end to address the issue of an open relationship in a very serious manner without ruining all the humor that came before. Tackling the subject with two Asian-American lead actors in and of itself would make the subject matter fresh and original, but H.P. Mendoza's script is smartly written and doesn't attempt to go overboard trying to force the laughs. Parry Shen's comedic timing is spot-on and he understands that often less is more in a good comedy, like when he is greeted by a quick peck on the lips by Ronald (Kerry McCrohan) and tries to act "free spirited" by suppressing his shock with a simple "OH!." The kiss isn't necessarily funny, but Parry's face and his reaction are a laugh out loud moment. Parry also has the ability to constantly stick his foot in his mouth while smiling cluelessly throughout the film, constantly creating great, funny moments (the opening wedding scene speech is classic). Lynne Chen's wonderful performance is a great balance to Parry's abundant laugh moments and Sheetal Sheth and Kerry McCrohan are the perfect predatory, hot swinging couple out to seduce them. When a comedy can mix drama along with the laughs you end up with a film that is satisfying beginning to end and that's what you'll find with "Yes, We're Open." It should also be noted that Director Richard Wong didn't forget that he is a great cinematographer when making this film. There are many visually beautiful moments. If there is a drawback to the film, it's that it plays like a long scene from a bigger film. More time could have been spend developing the characters and their backgrounds so that the audience actually understands each better and perhaps connects and/or relates to the characters, but that still doesn't diminish the laughs.
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A Very Funny Harold & Kumar 3D Movie
4 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is not going to surprise anyone. It follows the same successful formula and chemistry between John Cho and Kal Penn as the first two. The film also is rude, inappropriate and has questionable taste just like the first two. So while the basic concept is the same, it has been plugged into a Christmas setting making fun of the holiday and managing to shoot Santa Claus in the face in the process. Damn it's funny! I'm not big on buddy comedies but behind closed doors I secretly love Harold & Kumar. White Castle was funny, Guantanamo Bay was even funnier taking on the issue of race and national security, and 3D Christmas is poking fun at religion and holidays. Because many may be afraid of being ridiculed for touching sacred subjects and therefore don't, Harold & Kumar movies repeatedly take on the challenge and find something original to laugh about. Sure making a baby high, John having his penis stuck to a metal frozen pole, and poking fun at the Catholic sex scandals may be inappropriate to some, but everything's fair in comedy and what the filmmakers have done will make you laugh over and over. So while much of the film may be ridiculously over the top, it all works. And while we don't see enough of Bobby Lee in the film who seems to be able to make you laugh without doing much, we do get Neil Patrick Harris playing himself as a closeted heterosexual. That scene is not just really funny throughout, but it steals the show. His scene is nothing short of a "must see" moment that is destined to be classic.
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In the Family (2011)
The stuff Academy Award winning films are made of...
26 October 2011
Many critics could argue, perhaps convincingly, that "In the Family" could be edited from its almost 3 hours to 2 hours, however, the pacing of the film doesn't suffer from its length. And by taking time to develop the almost mundane everyday life of a gay couple raising a young son, the film is actually a bold political statement that speaks directly to every person who thinks being gay is somehow a non-stop sex fest. Because of that, the film makes a very strong point even before the issues at the heart of the movie become front and center. It's a family friendly film where sexual orientation is almost an afterthought of the movie and that is what sets the tone and makes it groundbreaking. That is a long winded way of saying that anyone who thinks the film should fit into a typical 2 hour movie formula, is missing the depth of the story and the emotional impact the pacing creates.

Many Asian-American actors would say they hate doing accents because they are connected with stereotypical roles, but Patrick Wang's southern accent probably wasn't what Asian-American actors had in mind and in this case it is a testament to Patrick's incredible acting abilities. I am one who thinks directors should direct and not also take on the demand of acting in their own films because both can suffer, but Patrick Wang's acting and directing are both amazing. He has embraced this film heart and soul and it's evident in its emotional complexity and perhaps this is a case where it could not have been as successful without Patrick in both roles.

In the film the downward spiral starts with the confrontation between Joey (Patrick Wang) and Chad's sister over the will and is a riveting scene that doesn't leave the viewer rooting for anyone, but actually feeling the pain and the point each is making about the circumstances. But for Joey it is the most devastating because everything in his life is gone overnight; his partner, his child, and his home. The loneliness and destruction of his life is powerfully and beautifully created by Patrick's acting and directing making this a heart wrenching film that shouldn't be missed. And the film's conclusion? Emotionally brilliant.
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Academy Award caliber film
18 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Sometimes a film comes along where all the pieces fall into place and the script, cinematography, music, acting, directing all form a magical symphony. "Floating Lives" is one such film that is so powerful that after you have followed the drama through the myriad of emotions to it's successful conclusion you almost feel exhausted, yet so satisfied.

Ultimately it is about the women in the film whose characters are center stage and are on the one hand so strong and bold and yet on the other so fragile. Actress Do Thi Hai Yen's performance brilliantly showcases both the strong and the fragile as a tragic yet hopeful prostitute, Suong, who yearns for a simple life of happiness. Escaping a horrible beating from angry wives, she is thrown into life on a boat with a mentally and physically abusive man, Mr. Vu, and his two teenage children far from populated areas of Vietnam in the Mekong Delta. When Mr. Vu's daughter reveals to Suong her mother's infidelity, hence why their mother is not part of their lives, Suong states about Mr. Vu, "now I understand his roar" and at that moment in the film she begins to think of him as a person who knows how to love deeply giving her more reason to hope for a life with him and his children. And that is part of this very complex web of emotions that is formed among these four characters that makes the film so engaging.

Dustin Nguyen's role as the father is also a masterful performance that can easily be called one of the best acting roles of his career, certainly a role not seen from him in the past. Like Do Thi Hai Yen, his acting creates a very complex character. On the surface Mr. Vu is easy to dislike, yet he has glimpses of a happy, kind, loving man that makes him hard to hate and easy to feel sympathy for and that allows the audience to hope for a better future for him and his family. When she offers to go back to being a prostitute to actually help the family, Mr. Vu does not object. When leaving to fulfill her "duty," she looks back multiple times hoping that Mr. Vu will stop her. While he too considers that option, even opening his mouth to speak, perhaps ready to feel something good again, even at that moment he is unable to do so. This is such a powerful scene in the film showing Suong's unwillingness to give up hope even though everything she knows tells her all hope is lost.

Throughout the film the mesmerizing cinematography of the Mekong Delta and the beautiful original soundtrack are juxtapose the cruel misery of these floating lives…floating through the waterways, floating through life surviving, and floating towards what they hope is a better tomorrow. Through all of the darkness in the film, hope is interwoven and therein lies the mastery of director Nguyen Quang Binh's film.
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Overhead Projector provided
19 September 2011
Stage productions never translate well to film because it's impossible to capture the interaction with and energy that an audience provides. As a movie goer you are never able to participate, only watch from a distance. That being said, if a stage show isn't captured on film most of us would never get to experience some amazing work, so thanks Mike Closson for turning the camera on Cuckoo Kristina and all her nesting on stage! The best written one person shows are those that can take a very deep, serious subject matter and intertwine the right amount of humor throughout the production to tell a story and make a point. Kristina has started with the fact that the suicide rate among Asian-American women is higher than other females and interjects her own life and experiences into this while taking time to laugh about the chaos/stress of life. Her use of an overhead projector in the show is unique and brilliantly funny. It's as if for brief moments she stops to give a lecture and then resumes her performance. Throughout the show she runs to the projector to check her story arc on the damn thing only to find out she is still stuck at the beginning developing the "crisis" (and therefore can't move the story along). These moments are so funny and yet at that same time she is emphasizing the whole point of her show, namely that there is a crisis among Asian-American women. The way Kristina chooses to conclude her show is an amazing idea that puts a very large, loud period on a very long run-on sentence. Great movie, but I'm quite sure that seeing her perform this live on stage is a must see experience.
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...In a Nutshell
15 August 2011
While the movie is billed as a "romance," the fact that it is based on a true story actually gives the film more of a dramatic edge than perhaps the title and the billing of the film fail to alert audiences too, and sadly, may deter those who love a great drama from going to see. So for those who wanna see a romantic film, you'll love this…and for those who love dramas, here is why you should see this film! My Wedding and Other Secrets is based on a documentary by Rosanne Liang called Banana In a Nutshell about her real life experiences; that in and of itself is part of the reasons why the film is so successful. Gone are all the nice ribbons and bows and cute little one-liners you would expect in a "romance" and instead you experience real characters with depth and with real conversation and interactions that are tangible. While in the end the film ends on a happy note as you'd expect from a romance, the journey to that point is littered with the complexities of human emotion, cultural differences, and the loving bond of family. Michelle Ang, who plays Emily Chu, does a wonderful job of creating a character torn between her love of a non-Chinese boyfriend and her family's "Chinese" expectations for their daughter. Emily is then pulled in so many directions in the film while she tries to decide what her life should be, and the best choices to make, and it is her performance that brings this drama to life. Matt Whelan, Pei-Pei Cheng, Kenneth Tsang and Mike Ginn all provide an exceptional supporting cast. Real life "Emily," Rosanne Liang, directed the film and her guidance has created a film with the perfect balance between romance and drama, making a very original "romance" film that is a great drama not to be missed.
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Bang Bang (2011)
Raw, documentary feel punctuated with great performances
29 July 2011
First, you know writer/director Byron Q created something "good" when the media gets shut out of screenings because it's sold out! Such was the case with us at the Los Angeles premiere in May when we planned to do a review of the film as a followup to our interview with Byron Q, Thai Ngo, David Huynh and Jessika Van!

The Orange County, CA premiere gave us another opportunity to catch the film which we did...and this film is RAW! That is the perfect word to describe the film, not just because of the writing and directing, but the visual style, the solid "real" acting and the very documentary feel of the film. From the opening sequence the film makes you part of what is happening like you are there with the cast experiencing what they experience. Using both a script and improvisation, Byron has also allowed the film to breathe and take on a much bigger life than the confines of what the actors were given to learn. There is a natural flow to conversation and an authenticity to the language. Thai Ngo, a well- known musical artist, is impressive in his acting debut as lead character Justin. David Huynh plays his side-kick Charlie and shows, as he does with every role he touches it seems, an ability to bring subtle nuances to a role that makes the character so complex. Walter Wong is another actor in the film that provides a standout performance, and Jessika Van just isn't seen enough! If there is a drawback, it's the fact that the viewer is left a bit unsatisfied and wanting to know more about the characters and where they came from and how their bonds developed. And here is one of the very interesting things about this film...there are genuine "laugh out loud" moments that work (which you wouldn't expect) in such a brutal, very real feeling film about gang life, because it brings to life the bond these guys have as friends. Byron's feature film debut is a great film to call "my first."
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Dumpling (2011)
Seal it tight, or the water will get in and destroy the dumpling...
1 May 2011
What Wesley Du has done is taken a play he wrote and decided to transform it into a short film. The film is truly amazing in the way that it tells the story of a father/son relationship that on the surface is dysfunctional and cold but underneath there is a strong sense of family and a desire to bond that for both is difficult. Each is trying to bring the other into their very different worlds without much success and the symbolism of the dumpling and how to make them is the son's way to find the one emotional connection they share, his mother who is deceased. What is beautiful about the film is that it is loaded with so many questions that are not answered and that actually is what adds to the power of the story. The performances of both Jesse Wang (the father) and Won Lee (the son) are exceptional and they are able to create that on-screen chemistry that will leave your eyes watering in the end.
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Masterful blend of comedy and romance...
30 April 2011
Christine Yoo has written and directed a film that is masterful in the way it moves from comedy to romance by blending the two seamlessly. That's the good news...the bad news is that by virtue of the fact that it is a film with an Asian cast and a few subtitles thrown in, it will probably not receive the wide release and the sold out American audiences it deserves. Although it is a film about Korean culture and traditions of parents whose son is a Korean-American raised in a very different world than his immigrant parents, the comedy is ultimately about generational differences among family members, something everyone can understand. While every good film starts with a great script, without the right director and cast it can't succeed. Christine Yoo as writer/director has guided this film perfectly. Brian Tee, in the lead role of Jason, has taken on a character most would not expect. He is able to subdue his character among all the hoopla, chaos and comedy of the cast to provide that perfect balance and dramatic constant the film needs to bring it all together. Bobby Lee, Jean Yoon, Steve Park, June Kyoto Lu, Kelvin Han Yee and Joy Osmanski all provide perfect comedic timing creating truly memorable characters. This is a romantic story with so many laughs and it works so well on so many levels. For example, two wonderful parts of the film are the use of animation when explaining the history of the family "curse," and the long distance dating between Jason (Brian Tee) who is from Los Angeles in the film, and Na Young (Hye-jeong Kang) who is from Seoul. You can bet this film will be a big success in Korea and it deserves the same everywhere else including the USA.
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Rude Awakening
1 December 2010
This film is such a mixed bag it is difficult to know where to begin. The filmmakers decided that everything would be on set and filmed with a green screen which lends itself to a dark and visually exciting look, however, the downside of so much emphasis on visual effects is that it transforms the film into a quasi unbelievable fantasy land. In essence it sucks the life out of all the characters and makes it look like some animated video game. The town is a bizarre circus, literally not figuratively, that makes no sense especially since they just hang around in circus outfits all the time. To make matters worse, you have all these characters plopped in a town that is a small street of run-down, mostly uninhabited buildings with no homes for any of the townspeople, huh? What a mess. That said, if you are looking for beautiful cinematography (visual effects of course) as the backdrop for a martial arts film with some great fight scenes, then not all is lost...well sorta.

That's because you must endure (and yes it's sleep inducing) the love story for the first hour of the film that basically has as much spark as a wet match...thanks in large part to Jang Dong-Gun's emotionless, monotone acting, he is nothing more than a robotic person delivering bad one-liners. Paired with Kate Bosworth, who for some reason decided a southern accent went with the old west, the on screen chemistry is nonexistent and their love scene shows nothing to either titillate or make us believe they have the hots for each other.

If that were not bad enough, Dong-Gun's English is so bad that delivering his extremely sparse dialog of Arnauld talk makes him sound like a bad Mr. Miyagi. Hence this also showcases one of the big problems in Hollywood; overlooking hundreds of talented Asian-American actors for a superstar actor from Asia who just cannot handle an English language Hollywood film. WHY?? Dong-Gun has so few lines in the entire film (were they cut?) it is reasonable to expect a superstar actor to devote the time necessary to perfecting his craft, in this case his few English lines, which of course wasn't done. If there is any acting saving grace, it is Danny Huston's stellar performance as the colonel.

If you can bare an hour of "love story" as the producers have promoted the film as, and some bad acting that goes with it, you can get to some really fun action scenes. In particular, when the colonel decides to hide in the hotel and Dong-Gun walks up the dark staircase to fight the bandits in the hallway guarding the door...some awesome effects and fighting will jolt you from much of the boredom experienced prior.

And just when you think the film might redeem itself, it degrades into a bad typical ending with horrendous narration by Geoffrey Rush. If Jang Dong-Gun thought this was gonna be his ticket to Hollywood stardom ala Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat or Jet Li, he is in for a rude awakening because he does nothing to make himself memorable on screen for American audiences.
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Clash (2009)
Who cares about the briefcase...
15 November 2010
Expectations for any martial arts action film are usually the same: be entertained by lots of great fight scenes. Johnny Nguyen's martial arts expertise doesn't disappoint in Clash, but the film fortunately goes deeper than just that which places it in an elite category of martial arts action films.

Thanh Van "Veronica" Ngo plays Trinh/Phoenix and creates a beautiful, brutal, yet warm and caring lead character that is the centerpiece of the film. When she fights it is masterful, and when she breaks down over those she loves it is touching. Being able to believe in her diversity of actions and emotions shows her mastery of the character.

Johnny Nguyen wrote the story and has created a role for himself, Quan/Tiger, which not only has him taking a back seat to Trinh, but has created a complex character who has secrets, who has emotions beyond being angry at the bad guys, and of course who can grace the scene with his amazing fight sequences. As the dutiful right hand man of Trinh he follows orders, yet does so with a protective eye at every turn. It is obvious as the film progresses that Tiger is developing feelings for Phoenix and at the moment they are finally alone and safe from the chaotic world outside he expresses how he feels by saying, "I don't wanna call you Phoenix anymore, I want to call you by your real name." A subtle way of expressing his feelings that is easily understood by Trinh who made it clear that Rule #1 is never use your real name so you remain an anonymous person. Their moment doesn't degrade into a cheesy roll in the hay but becomes a conversation about the complexity of their lives while acknowledging the mutual feelings and finally the love scene (aka "roll in the hay"). A beautifully conceived scene.

And with the great acting and the complexity of the characters, there are some brief moments of genuine humor (not bad one liners), Christopher Wong's original adrenaline rush score and of course plenty of martial arts fight scenes that don't disappoint, in particular, raiding the house and fighting the "Frenchies." And all that leads to a conclusion that is not what you would predict (thankfully) and yet lends itself perfectly to the hard truth about the complexity that will continue to be their lives beyond this one mission.

If there is a downside to the film, it is the "briefcase." The item that everyone wants is never defined as to it's importance both in it's content and what it has the capability of doing in the wrong hands. From the beginning of the film the depth of the mission is unclear and the briefcase becomes just a prop with no tangible value. However, when you only expect action from a martial arts film and you get so much more with the development of the characters, who cares about the briefcase!
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Hello (I) (2010)
Duh! The card was on top!
13 October 2010
David Kim's short film is a perfect example of why it's sad short films are not money making endeavors and don't get more opportunities for people to see them. The film is a very funny look at obsession with a behind the scenes peek at the laughable, stupid things we all do when no one is watching! While there might be a hint of Facebook stalking thrown in, the film never deviates from being just plain funny. The most ridiculous thing we all do that is exposed in the film is when we pretend to be great singers ala karaoke. Embracing Lionel Richie's song "Hello" as our obsessor's song of choice makes for repeated laughs throughout the film.

Comedy is perhaps the hardest film genre to make successful and this film is probably a good indication that David WILL be successful at making us laugh.
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Fog (2010)
Fog beginning to end.
11 October 2010
There are so many wonderful things about this film that it also is a bit frustrating that Director Kit Hui decided to do the editing herself. As a filmmaker, I always think it is a big mistake for a director to edit their own work because they are married to what they filmed and fresh eyes are so important during editing not only for a different perspective, but because a director often cannot edit sufficiently to keep the film keep moving forward. They don't wanna lose footage...even if it is better lost. Such is the case with Fog where the film drags time and engaging moment and then re-engage the audience only to drag again.

Now on to the finer things...Terence Yin's performance is so measured and reserved that he allows the emotions of what is happening to envelop you instead of banging you over the head with "this is how I feel." The other beautiful thing that Kit has done is provided a slice of his life dealing with the unknown affects amnesia brings. His accident and the reasons for his amnesia are not relevant in the film and the conclusion is as his life will always be...a never ending journey of rediscovering who he was, is and will be. The ending is masterful.
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De Mai tính (2010)
Complex love
20 September 2010
Typically you know what you are getting into when you go see a movie billed as "romantic comedy." And often they lack romance or comedy and sometimes both. Not to mention that the simplicity of the characters often make the movie very predictable. That said, romantic comedies often don't work overall and viewers are left with a few good moments here or there. All that is said to explain what you won't find in "Fool For Love." That is because the two main characters, in particular Dustin Nguyen's character "Dung" have a complexity to them that creates a real life foundation from which the romance and comedy can be built. And that is a great thing because the movie is so satisfying on both levels of romance and comedy. And of course kudos go out for making an ending that that is equally as satisfying as the movie...not predictable, but very fitting for a good romantic comedy. Perhaps the biggest drawback is again seeing a very stereotypical, feminine, over the top gay character, yet it is hard to hate the character too much when he provides so many laughs that are sometimes even more clever than the stereotypical character he portrays. And how the other characters in the film relate to him is so kind and loving that it turns him into someone who is not an outcast, but accepted for who he is. Too bad it can't be in wider release and more American's can't take time out to read subtitles!
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Sleeping around can be fun!
30 August 2010
If you like the Hollywood mainstream romantic comedy with an ending you can guess in the first 5 minutes of the film and the standard white cast ala Matthew and Jennifer, then you should skip this film...but you'll miss out on something totally fun and original! Koji Steven Sakai has written a script with plenty of laughs and smile moments and the beauty of his comedy is the subtle messages (yes many) conveyed throughout starting with the first scene where we hear the film tagline, "A slut is a woman with the morals of a man." And FINALLY someone tells the truth about that age old double standard! Karin Anna Cheung's strong, confident performance is spot on and co-star Archie's Kao's charm creates a quasi role reversal of the man/woman stereotypes. And "Nice But Boring Guy" Randall Park has so many scene stealing laughs he becomes a star in his own right. The one drawback of the film is yet another stereotypical "gay friend" role, however, Wilson Cruz's performance was great and he has plenty of funny moments, so maybe that can be forgiven!
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306 (2010)
Quiet On the Set!
27 April 2010
What makes movie making magical is the artistry and talent of all the players coming together in the right combination to give the audience something attention grabbing and unique. Mr. London has done this by creating a quasi silent film. A day in the life of a college student becomes a mystery with a clever twist. The audience is taken through a series of visual clues, some of which are not at first obvious as clues, to tell us a story without dialogue. While the end may seem inconclusive, the journey is clear and engaging. He easily takes the viewer through a series of emotions through acting and not dialogue. The beautiful piano score written for the film is a perfect contrast to the edginess of the story. Like the film itself, the title is a mystery that is solved through "a day in the life" of the main character. A must see short film.
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