A FISH OUT OF WATER
Directed by Lai Kuo-an
Official Selection, 2017 San Sebastian Film Festival
Official Selection, 2017 Toronto International Film Festival
Don’t stay together for the kids, as the saying goes. Especially if the kids are the ones ruining the marriage. For Ya-ji (Peggy Tseng) and Hao-teng (Jen Shuo Cheng), one child alone proves disaster enough for – quite literally – two lifetimes.
Yi-an (Runyin Bai) is a problem child, antisocial and with a creepy stare, constantly bringing up, much to his parents’ devastation, his past life in a seaside village in Japan. When he speaks, he speaks in incantations, syncopating his syllables, allowing every dull word to hang in the air. His classmates label him a liar and a bully. His psychologists can’t figure out what in god’s name is wrong with him. Ya-ji rejects that anything is wrong with him at all. Feeling trapped, she leaves Hao-teng and takes Yi-an with her.
A FISH OUT OF WATER skirts easy explanations of the preternatural in favor of honest, insightful depictions of the normal and commonplace. Of love, and how marriage warps and tests it. Of the mystery of parenthood, and all the sacrifices and emotional ups-and-downs it demands. And what makes something count as home anyway? How much work does it take to achieve something like a home? Or, as Ya-ji and Hao-teng slowly come to ask themselves – and even each other – is it perhaps foolish to think of home as something desirable in the first place? –Thomas Jin