A survivor of a brutal Japanese internment camp, Teoh Yun Ling has been working with the Malaysian authorities punish the Japanese war criminals for several years. She despises the Japanese for killing her younger sister, but to pay tribute to her soul she travels to the highlands to visit the renowned gardener Nakamura Aritomo. Aritomo refuses to work for Yun Ling but instead takes her in as an apprentice so that she can build her own garden. Residing in the tea room, Yun Ling begins working at The Garden of Evening Mists and learns to design a garden. Yet outside of the Malaysian jungle, another war is waging in Malaysia in a continued state of emergency. Malay nationalists are fighting the British for independence, while communist guerillas are brutally killing farmers, miners, and their families in every way they can to gain control over the regions.
As a Malaysian myself, it was odd watching such a well made film; in fact I would go as far as to say that I am equally astonished and blown away by this movie as it was just so darn good. Well, the movie has been called a heartbreaking love story, although that is true in a certain manner, I think the more proper branding of the movie would be self-healing.
Firstly, I must acknowledge the themes thrown around in the movie, and to me personally it would be the anger and the hatred towards the Japanese post WW2, and as an individual whom has grown up knowing that Japan were known as some of the most respectable and polite individuals on the planet, I found it hard to understand the hatred that was shown towards them still amongst the Chinese community and after viewing this movie I can say that I can kind of see the anger and resentment felt towards them still. But yes, as mentioned before this movie is about self-healing so in the end, we can't continuously allow the past define the way we see life or how we treat others; sure, there are some few rotten apples here and there but the sample size is simply unsuitable for us to judge an entire community based on the few experiences that we have lived through. Thus, the importance of love, mercy and grace.
Okay, on with the praises I have regarding this movie. Cinematography is incredible, my gosh what a beautiful movie. However, I believe that it is so mainly because of the location the movie was shot too and these scenes revolving around the vast environment of Cameron Highlands aren't exactly artistic shots but the imagery within the Japanese house where the garden is located is absolutely stunning.
Although the movie looks stunning, I must bring attention to a certain scene within the movie where the scene could've been better shot which is the scene where the main character, Teoh Yun Ling ponders upon her sister's photograph and the scene plays out in such a way that it felt unnecessary to have a close up on the picture again as it had been done in the earlier part of the movie and the next cut is of her reacting to that picture. This probably isn't an issue for the vast majority but it felt unnatural to me and it stood out too much to my liking. Furthermore, the first 15 minutes of the movie felt choppy to me, this could've been a personal nitpick.
The acting on the other hand, this is a difficult one to comment upon as it was good but as this movie was labelled as a romantic movie, I went in expecting some serious chemistry between Teoh Yun Ling (Angelica Lee) and Nakumuara Aritomo (Hiroshi Abe) and since this movie focuses on the pain Angelica Lee's character, Teoh Yun Ling experiences during the Japanese invasion of Malaya during WW2, there is constant tension between the two characters due to her prejudice against the Japanese people. But looking past all that, I must say that she did a wonderful job portraying a strong character but at the same time broken, she absolutely nailed all the emotions required in each particular scene and her performance truly nailed this movie home and even brought me to tears.
All in all, this was a heartbreaking movie, I went in with some form of expectation after seeing the number of awards it was nominated for at the 56th Golden Horse awards and this movie definitely delivers and this is a movie worth catching in the cinema.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this