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Chinese language cinema

Film review: At Cafe 6 – Dong Zijian, Cherry Ngan navigate a long-distance romance

Not the sentimental romance viewers might expect, this film offers an unexpectedly bleak account of how a couple can grow apart. While it fails as a rom-com, it succeeds as coming-of-age drama

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 September, 2016, 5:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 September, 2016, 5:57pm

3.5 stars

It would be easy to dismiss this film for what it isn’t: a sentimental campus romance anchored by two likeable lovebirds that the audiences can’t help but root for. Such is the lasting impression left by the box office hits You Are the Apple of My Eye (2011) and Our Times (2015) that At Café 6 is all but guaranteed a mixed reception for deviating from that feel-good formula. In the cold light of day, however, this should be recognised for the sombre drama about growing pains that it is.

Marking the full-length feature debut by the Taiwanese author-turned director Neal Wu Tzu-yun, who also adapted the screenplay from his own novel, At Café 6 follows the withdrawn high-school student Guan Min-lu (Dong Zijian of Mountains May Depart as he experiences first love with cute classmate Li Xin-rui (Cherry Ngan Cheuk-ling), struggles to maintain the relationship once the pair begin university life in two different cities, and gradually succumbs to the adversities that life throws at him.

How At Cafe 6’s director Neal Wu turned teenage heartbreak into a successful career

Wu paints a sensitive portrait of the strains of a long-distance relationship, and the film offers an unexpectedly bleak account of how people can grow apart – with Min-lu being the romantic and Xin-rui the realist. Next to the couple’s heartbreak, it is Min-lu’s friendship with his school buddy Xiao Bo-zhi (Lin Po-hung) that will resonate the most with viewers. While it fails as a rom-com, At Café 6 is one of the better coming-of-age dramas that Taiwan has produced in recent years.

At Cafe 6 opens on September 8

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