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Movie review: The Garden of Evening Mists

17 Jan 2020 / 14:36 H.

By LEENA ZUKI

MOST of this movie was shot in Malaysia’s very own Cameron Highlands, and Tan Twan Eng, the author of the novel the film is based on, described how the scenes are “a work of art”. He is right, the shots emphasised the beauty of Cameron Highlands, making me want to pay a visit myself!

This movie is set in Malaya during the 1950s, and features various cultures in terms of the people and languages, which shows how diverse Malaysia was during the colonial era.

The story is about two people from different backgrounds who meet through their passion for creating a Japanese garden, while learning more about each other despite having distinctive goals.

War survivor Yun Ling (Sinje Lee) lost her sister, Yun Hong (Serene Lim) during the Japanese occupation. Nakamura Aritomo (Hiroshi Abe) is a former imperial gardener from Japan who resides in a quaint Japanese house in Cameron Highlands.

Yun Ling wants to build a Japanese garden to commemorate her late sister, who had always wanted a Japanese-style garden of her own.

She seeks the aid of Aritomo, who is reluctant to help at first. Eventually they break down their respective barriers, despite the socio-political tensions in Malaya at that time, and let each other into their lives.

The movie has flashback scenes that allow the audience to see Yun Ling’s life from two different periods of time. Lee plays a younger Yun Ling both during and after the war, while Yun Ling in her sixties is portrayed by renowned Taiwanese actress Sylvia Chang.

This two-hour movie felt a bit slow-paced in certain parts but for me, the ending was very intense because everything started to fall into place as an older Yun Ling finds out more about her past by deciphering the clues that Aritomo had left behind over thirty years previously.

If you don’t mind sitting through the movie, you will find out how Yun Ling finds the closure she longs for, which was surprisingly with her all along.

What can you expect from this movie? Expect to cry, feel some anger, and even laugh a bit, but mostly you will cry.

The struggles depicted during the war are heartbreaking to watch. Lee, Chang and Lim portrayed their characters really well through their non-verbal expressions, which moved me to tears.

Not forgetting Aritomo, played by Japanese actor Abe, who is not your average gardener. Behind his uptight demeanour, lies a soft spot for Yun Ling.

Although The Garden Of Evening Mists tells a distinctly Malaysian story, it made me feel like I was watching an international film at times, owing to the excellent direction by Tom Shu-Yu Lin.

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