Jianne’s review published on Letterboxd:
I've finally completed Wong Kar-wai's "Informal Trilogy" in such a weird sequence: In the Mood for Love, 2046 and now Days of Being Wild.
If I've said that In The Mood for Love will make you feel exactly just that and 2046 would make you in the mood for heartbreaks then Days of Being Wild will give you the mood to be just that—wild.
Days of Being Wild is only Kar-wai's second film and it both shows his infancy but also how he shaped his identity as a director as well as his characters, some of which have regularly appeared throughout the Informal Trilogy.
Leslie Cheung plays the young and charismatic but emotionally unstable, York who is a womanizer. Cheung, whom I have seen in Happy Together with Tony Leung is really a charismatic character. He embodies a sexiness that's untamed and draws you in as a viewer. It's no wonder that two of his flames are so madly in love with him. Much like in his character in said film, Cheung here is also on the verge of self-destruction further heightened by his familial identity.
But Kar-wai doesn't just focus on Cheung. He also gives us Maggie Cheung's Su Li Shen, Carina Lau's Mimi and to an extent, Andy Lau's Tide perspectives—all of whom are grappled with their own frustrations that ultimately involves York. It's York's own biological identity that shapes his relationship with women and eventually, how he lives. He is damaged but it is not romanticized. Kar-wai isn't a pessimist, he is just showing rawness.
Kar-wai traits also plague the screen: cramped spaces that seem to emit suffocation, unusual angles highlighting the characters and their interactions, dark and damp and nostalgic setting—all embody Kar-wai's consistency as a director and how his filmmaking drives his story as much as character even if it's lack of a strong plot.
There is so much tension in this film, so much dramatic build-up and so much longing. How much does Li Shen long for York? How much does Mimi long for York? How much does York long for his mother? How much does Tide long for Li Shen? Each minute is made with beauty, each glimpse, each touch feels like it's consuming you. Just like Li Shen and York's memorable 1 minute, Days of Being Wild has been another memorable beauty of a film.
This film, itself, is about identity. Who is York to his biological parents? Who is Li Shen without York? Who is Mimi when she is not Mimi? Who is Tide as a sailor? Every fleeting seconds matter in discovering who we are and how each person in our life shape us.
(P.S. As a Filipino born and raised and living in Hong Kong, seeing The Philippines and Hong Kong in one film is a treat. Kar-wai captures the nostalgia of old Manila eminently.)