I WeirDo (怪胎, 2020)
Director (and writer): Ming-Yi Liao
Cast: Nikki Hsieh, Austin Lin
This film is Asia’s first feature film shot on an iPhone, telling the story of two weirdos becoming a positive made by two negatives. – IMDB
In the current film landscape, unique romantic comedies are far and few. Most of the memorable ones in recent years have come out of streaming service with coming of age elements or the independent landscape. I WeirDo is one to add to that quirky romantic comedy/dramedy style coming out of Taiwan, somewhere that its cinema is much less known but thanks to Netflix, a lot more of Taiwanese cinema is landing in front of international audiences.
Written and directed by Ming-Yi Liao, the story revolved around two intensely obsessive-compulsive characters who end up meeting each other and falling in love. The cute moments of finding companionship in their “abnormality” breaks them each out of their own comfort zone to accept this less lonely way of living. Like most romantic comedies, things have to go a dramatic turn and for this one, OCD is a switch (it might not be in reality..I didn’t do any research) and one thing can switch it off and things can go back to normal but its different for everyone and in this case, falling in love is one of the pair’s triggers but becoming normal might be what pulls them apart. The film is less about the mental illness element of OCD but rather its about the definition of normal versus abnormal and the power and fragility of love itself as well as the power of companionship to have more courage to face the world outside. It also reminds us, despite the crazy times we’re living in now, that what we might consider normal is a challenge for others.
Shot with an iPhone, this film is fairly experimental. There is a certain meta element as the narrator shifts from the beginning with main guy Po-Ching (Austin Lin) who narrates a good half of the film until he goes back to normal and it switches over to main girl Chen Ching (Nikki Hsieh). A lot of times they talk to the camera and narrate their story and what is going on. In that sense, it lessens their dialogue communication but leaves it mostly to their own actions. The cute elements are mostly in the first half as we see them challenging each other to their own limits to break out of their comfort zone and finding ways to spend more time together and the second half sees them transitioning into a life together and the third act is when things unravel. The execution is spot-on as the tone change is gradual and smooth. At the same time, the characters are very unique in their own quirky ways. They change each other naturally as they spend more time together. From the moment they meet, its already a lot of awkward chemistry going on that makes it hard to not look at their interaction. Kudos to Nikki Hsieh and Austin Lin for pulling off these performances including some fantastic outfits especially their giant raincoat and protective gloves and masks. Everything is thought out in detail and their outfits contrast each other. There’s something so awesome about Chen Ching’s big yellow raincoat with her sneakers look.
I WeirDo isn’t just a quirky romantic comedy. The build-up and the change in tone and the swapping of narrative voice as well as the character development all combines to be an impressive film. Especially in the thrid act when it pulls a surprising twist which is visually appealing and then wraps up the film with space for contemplation. I WeirDo is different in the sea of romantic comedies and its one that comes highly recommended.