Film review: Zinnia Flower – Tom Lin’s serene meditation on grief and closure

Characters deal with rage and depression in tale of moving on after loss

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 November, 2015, 4:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 November, 2015, 5:05pm

Simmering rage and inconsolable depression vie for attention in this deceptively tranquil drama about grief and moving on. Scripted and directed by Taiwanese filmmaker Tom Lin Shu-yu (Starry Starry Night) as a response to the death of his wife in 2012, Zinnia Flower is both visceral and contemplative and will likely leave an indelible impression on the more patient viewers.

SEE ALSO: Mourning glory: Taiwanese director Tom Lin Shu-yu channels his grief into art

It opens to the aftermath of a multiple-car crash in Taipei in which Wei (Shih Chin-hang, lead guitarist of pop-rock band Mayday) has lost his pregnant wife (Alice Ke Jia-yan) and Ming (Karena Lam Ka-yan) has lost her fiancé (Umin Boya). Adopting the 100-day timeline of a Buddhist mourning ritual, this intimate dual portrait alternates between the surviving spouses as they go on their own paths to closure.

For Wei, who also ends up with a broken arm, it’s an instinctive response to take out his anger on those around him, before he comes to receive small doses of comfort from his wife’s former piano students.

For Ming, who was set to marry her chef boyfriend despite his Kaohsiung parents’ displeasure, her only source of relief appears to be their pre-planned culinary trip to Okinawa, which she now takes alone.

By leaving the histrionics aside and avoiding a didactic approach, Lin candidly chronicles the most painful hours of acceptance for his bereaved protagonists while revealing a deep-rooted compassion for them. Although mourners are bound to react in contrasting ways, Zinnia Flower offers reassurance about the certainty of life’s unrelenting cycle. The rest is chasing personal demons away and letting go.

Zinnia Flower opens on November 19