Despite her French name, Sandrine Pinna is a Taiwanese girl at heart. Director Cheng Yu-Chieh, whose first film was the acclaimed Do Over, understood this, and so he tailored his second feature for his Eurasian lead. The result is a moving and absorbing coming-of-age tale that blurs the line between autobiography and fiction. It is also one of the finest Taiwanese films produced in years.
Within a short time period, Pinna has established herself as one of the most charismatic young actresses or celluloid, with leading roles in numerous films, including Do Over, Candy Rain, and Miao Miao. With her incredible screen presence and stunning features, she proves once and for all just how above the competition she is in Yang Yang. Director Cheng captures all of this with long takes on a handheld camera, giving the film an intimate and genuine adolescent authenticity.
The story begins with the wedding of Yang Yang’s mother to her track-and-field coach. Yang-Yang’s best friend and sports rival, Xiao-Ru, is about to become her stepsister. They all move in together, and initially everything goes well. However, jealousy slowly bubbles over, especially when Xiao Ru’s boyfriend, Shawn (Eternal Summer‘s heartthrob Bryant Chang), takes an interest in Yang Yang, which triggers Yang Yang’s flight from her home, as well as her reluctant question to accept her own mixed identity.
The film’s unpredictable and emotionally resonant journey is a breath of fresh air from cookie-cutter teen romance, but more importantly, Yang Yang signals the arrival of two major talents – the director and his muse.
– Raymond Phathanavirangoon