The fast-paced, violent opening sequence of A Sun doesn’t prepare us for what is to follow. Taiwanese director Chung Mong-Hong’s drama begins on a jarring note with an amputation and then settles down to examine the consequences of this act. The combination of curiosity as well as rigour to see every sub-plot play out results in an in-depth examination of a damaged family trying to heal itself.
A Sun (2019) is out on Netflix. The amputation is committed by a teenager nicknamed Radish. The one who pays a bigger price is Radish’s accomplice, Ho (Wu Chien-ho).
After Ho is sent to a juvenile detention centre, his family begins to unravel. His father, a driving instructor, disowns him. His mother, a hairdresser, comes to visit him in detention, but doesn’t tell him that his girlfriend is pregnant. Ho’s older brother also faces the consequences of the sudden infamy brought down on the family.
Between flashbacks and the present, a richly layered portrait of the family emerges. Chung doesn’t resort to the shortcuts typical of chronicles of troubled families. Instead, the filmmaker lays out the hard path that must be taken by the characters, each of whom struggles to align their personalities with their overnight trauma. Chen Yi-wen, as Ho’s father Wen, and Samantho Ko, as Ho’s mother Qin, are especially remarkable in tracing the conflicted journeys of their characters.
The beautifully filmed A Sun clocks 155 minutes – an eternity on a streaming platform, perhaps, but the right duration for this kind of movie. Without being rushed along, we get a full sense of a family grappling with their nightmares. The small moments and the big turning points, the joyous memories and the lingering remorse – A Sun accommodates all these states as Ho finally understand the full meaning of parental love.