Set in modern-day Taipei, Lou Yi-An’s (樓一安)”A Place of One’s Own,” (一席之地) knits together the stories of three families in search for just the right place.
The film opens on Mo Zi and Kasey, a musician couple facing foreclosure on their modern Taipei condo due to Mo Zi’s delinquent mortgage payments. Formerly celebrated, Mo Zi’s brand of Taiwanese indie-rock is now seen as passe and he is sullen and paralyzed in the face of his declining fortunes. Kasey, on the other hand, is a rising star, a singer-songwriter who seems to have it all together: a supportive record label and manager, awards, and a hit record. She pays Mo Zi’s mortgage and keeps reminding him to face reality.
Just when you think the film is going to remain in the claustrophobic confines of Taipei apartments and low-lit rock clubs, we check in on a semi-rural area on the city’s outskirts. Here, Lin, his wife, and 20-something son, eke out a living. Lin is an artist, a grand architect of bamboo and origami mansions for the dearly departed. Families commission meticulously detailed palaces for their loved ones in heaven, then burn them as offerings.
But like Kasey, Lin’s wife takes the lead when her husband won’t. Lin needs a costly operation but instead of focusing on drumming up new business, he begins working on his own origami death castle, a huge design replete with towers and courtyards.
The third family consists of two sons searching for a funeral plot for their aging father. They approach Lin but with a mountain face and nearby pond bordering his home just right, the property has great feng shui. In light of their medical bills, Lin’s wife wants to sell but her husband, like Mo Zi, is fatalistic, stubborn, and ostrich-like in facing the future.
As the stories further intertwine, the importance of place is driven home, no pun intended. Mo Zi struggles to find his place in the musical world and his relationship with Kasey. Lin’s son must find his way out of a dead-end job to help his father afford his operation. Both female partners of Mo Zi and Lin must maintain their roles as strong female partners lest their counterparts let time and opportunities slip away.
If you are a fan of “Taiwanese Realism” as a cinematic style, “A Place of One’s Own” is a well-paced and engaging film. You can rent the film on Amazon.com’s video service.