Murmur of the Hearts

Not Louis Malle's classic but the latest from director Sylvia Chang who, after years of absence from the helm, digs deep into her Taiwanese roots to tell a story about growing up, and letting go. Isabella Leong plays an uncertain painter, Mei, who drifted apart from her tour guide brother after leaving Liudau, the off-shore island of Taiwan, with their mother. Mei falls for an underachieving boxer, and begins years of soul searching in the city, where the siblings reunite under unexpected circumstances. What was remembered and forgotten are lessons that have profound consequences in this emotional drama.


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  • ★★★★ review by nrh on Letterboxd

    it took a second viewing to reaffirm just how dense and strange this is on a level of execution - the visual motifs weave in and out of each other seemingly unmoored from the (already complicated) narrative; the expected scenes of melodrama go on for far longer than they should, only to taper off and resolve in impressionistic imagery or outright fantasy; images of physical pain, elemental landscape, and dream intrude into the plot and then slip away again.

    and who would've thought that one of 2015's best films would reunite the female stars of tsui hark's the missing, and also feature strange sequences of underwater visions?

  • ★★★★½ review by Valerie Orbach on Letterboxd

    A moving, magical story of intergenerational conflict, of memories and the emotions that go along with them. The images, full of natural wonders, practically throb with metaphor and meaning. A rapturous experience.

  • ★★★★ review by Matt Turner on Letterboxd

    A very moving, emotionally intelligent, romantic melodrama of a type not often seen anymore, Chang's first directorial effort in seven years looks at difficulties of communication and how relationships come apart. The dreamlike, graceful opening sets the stage and structure - a mother tells her two children a story, one that has stayed with them into adulthood. Chang then switches elliptically between this shared past and their separate presents, using the storytelling mechanism as a link. The girl (Isabella Leong), now a painter in a struggling relationship with a uncommunicative, psychological stunted boxer (Joseph Chang); and the boy (Lawrence Ko), a tour guide on a remote Taiwanese island Lyudao, distanced, inexpressive and lonely. Drawing in broad, emotive strokes, Chang explores the conflicts and shifts, both seismic and minute, that have served to distance these people; then crosses countries and chronologies to draw a wide, sprawling arc that brings them all together.

    Chang's dreamlike visuals, an entrancing Tsai Ming Liang inspired palette of rain distorted Taipei neons and misty Lyudao greys and greens; and high-emotional register performances from Leong and Ko elevate an overwritten, needlessly complex script. Exchanges between the characters throughout the film are stuttered, the character's shared inability to express their individual yearnings pushing them towards looks and gestures instead. When it all comes together, and the characters get somewhere towards the resolution or reunion they separately desire, Murmur of the Hearts carries real emotional heft, the weight of the accumulative power of Chang's pocketed moments and memories meaning the importance of everything unsaid is understood, and the impact deeply felt.

  • ★★★★½ review by Lumenal on Letterboxd

    I just gets better on subsequent viewings. Beautiful, sensitive, poignant, powerful. This film probably won't appeal to those who don't give it the chance to be parsed and absorbed with multiple viewings.

    There is a complex interwoven story here, told with beautiful music and imagery. It has affected me deeply. Just yield to it.

  • ★★★½ review by Filipe Furtado on Letterboxd

    (Be)longing and rootless in China. Haunting and directed with the precision of underappreciated master.

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