ACTIVATOR MARKETING COMPANY (2020)
Director: Ming-Yi Liao
Starring: Austin Lin, Nikki Hsieh
Fantasia Festival 2020 Selection
Isn't technology great? Taiwanese rom-com I WeirDO from Ming-Yi Liao can boast to be the first feature length movie from the country to be shot entirely on iPhone. In recent years, the use of iPhones in film making has allowed for some interesting and excellent movies (chiefly Sean Baker and Steven Soderbergh) whilst giving everybody the opportunity to go out and make movies without the need for thousands of pounds worth of kit. However, at the end of the day, it's always only about the quality of the movie that's shot...
I WeirDO follows Chen Po-ching (Lin) and Chen Ching (Hsieh) – both of whom suffer from chronic OCD (Po-ching suffers from mysophobia whereas Ching suffers from a skin condition that is irritated by being outside for too long as well as minor kleptomania) – as they begin a relationship and revel in the fact they have each found someone who is accepting of their respective conditions. What begins as a fun courtship and genuinely heartwarming rom-com suddenly switches tones at a major moment and I WeirDO becomes an emotional ride as the two characters realise the reality of their newfound situations and the effect it has on their relationship and lives. It’s a bold movie from Liao (that comes complete with a shift in aspect ratio) that allows the movie to explore the bonds of a relationship, contrasting opinions/attitudes, guilt and more to boot as well as sidestepping the clichés that come with the genre. It’s these moves that make I WeirDO damn good. A first half where we get to watch these characters come together awkwardly, deliver some great comedy moments and provide my favourite movie couple of 2020 allows the second half to have the desired emotional gravitas and effect that is often lacking for me in similar movies. Together, Austin Lin and Nikki Hsieh are excellent, their chemistry is wonderful and the synchronised gags they pull off are both cute and well-executed. As the movie rolls on, Hsieh is given more to do in terms of emotion and screen time, but both combine to make the movie what it is. I loved these characters, their interactions, their foibles and all. The movie and characters take on extra significance (unintentionally at time of filming) in the coronavirus world that we currently live in and it suddenly doesn't seem quite so odd to see people protecting themselves in public, in fact, it's quite satisfying to see.
As mentioned, I WeirDO is Taiwan’s first feature-length movie created entirely on iPhone and the use of the tech works nicely in this instance - it lends an intimate feeling to many scenes whilst also feeling voyeuristic in others in ways that constantly compliments what’s happening on-screen. It’s an accomplished use of the tech by a debutant that also dealt with DoP duties (sidenote: the use of colours in relation to scenes is intriguing throughout the movie)
A rom-com with a twist (a good one), I WeirDO eschews many conventions of the genre to deliver a fine mixture of comedy, emotion, heartache, joy, gravitas and pathos alongside two great performances and some sharp dialogue. I WeirDO is bloody awesome.
August 23rd 2020