Murmur of the Hearts

Murmur of the Hearts ★★★★

A very moving, emotionally intelligent, romantic melodrama of a type not often seen anymore, Chang's first directorial effort in seven years looks at difficulties of communication and how relationships come apart. The dreamlike, graceful opening sets the stage and structure - a mother tells her two children a story, one that has stayed with them into adulthood. Chang then switches elliptically between this shared past and their separate presents, using the storytelling mechanism as a link. The girl (Isabella Leong), now a painter in a struggling relationship with a uncommunicative, psychological stunted boxer (Joseph Chang); and the boy (Lawrence Ko), a tour guide on a remote Taiwanese island Lyudao, distanced, inexpressive and lonely. Drawing in broad, emotive strokes, Chang explores the conflicts and shifts, both seismic and minute, that have served to distance these people; then crosses countries and chronologies to draw a wide, sprawling arc that brings them all together.

Chang's dreamlike visuals, an entrancing Tsai Ming Liang inspired palette of rain distorted Taipei neons and misty Lyudao greys and greens; and high-emotional register performances from Leong and Ko elevate an overwritten, needlessly complex script. Exchanges between the characters throughout the film are stuttered, the character's shared inability to express their individual yearnings pushing them towards looks and gestures instead. When it all comes together, and the characters get somewhere towards the resolution or reunion they separately desire, Murmur of the Hearts carries real emotional heft, the weight of the accumulative power of Chang's pocketed moments and memories meaning the importance of everything unsaid is understood, and the impact deeply felt.

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