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Movie Critique: All Ears (2023) directed by Liu Jiayin
Movie Critique: All Ears (2023) directed by Liu Jiayin

Movie Critique: All Ears (2023) directed by Liu Jiayin

I believe he was not feeble, but rather compassionate. These two terms are frequently mistaken for one another.

Liu Jiayin, the filmmaker behind the acclaimed films “Oxhide” I and II, had not directed anything since 2009. Instead, he had been working as an associate professor of screenwriting at the Beijing Film Academy. However, it appears that his time there has sparked creativity, as his latest project, “All Ears,” centers around a struggling screenwriter.

All Ears is screening at Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema

The character mentioned is Wen Shan. He is facing difficulties in making a living in Beijing due to his struggles with script writing and his inability to create compelling characters. It is clear that the fast pace of the city does not suit him well. By chance, he starts writing eulogies and does so with great precision. He meets with families of the deceased, carefully observes them, listens to their stories, and then writes them down. Through this new job and the people he encounters, including a woman who is upset with his eulogy and travels to Beijing to confront him, Wen Shan begins to find his place and realizes that being normal is not necessarily a bad thing.

Liu Jiayin masterfully directs a film that serves as a guide to screenwriting, with insightful commentary on the theme of normalcy. The main focus is on Wen Shan’s process of crafting eulogies, as shown through his home board and discussions. This theme also ties into the idea that all the individuals he writes for, despite their unique backgrounds, are ultimately “normal.” The film poses the question of whether ordinary lives can be the subject of a remarkable movie, but the answer remains ambiguous.

Moreover, the film effectively portrays the sense of disconnection in the bustling megalopolis and the challenges faced by individuals from different backgrounds when relocating there. The complexities of personal, social, and familial issues within this unique environment are also thoughtfully examined. The concept of kindness versus weakness is also delved into, adding depth to the overall context. Additionally, the inclusion of a character that the protagonist desires to create, who is then shown to be living in his own apartment and interacting with him, adds an entertaining and intriguing surreal/meta aspect to the storytelling.

Although many of the mentioned elements are well executed, the initial portion of the film moves at a sluggish pace and lacks excitement. The ending also suffers from pacing issues, making the overall film feel even slower. In this aspect, Yan Yiping’s editing could have been improved by trimming down the length of the movie, though it is still commendable for maintaining the pace. Zhou Wencao’s cinematography captures realistic scenes without excessive embellishments.

Hu Ge in the role of Wen Shan is quite convincing in presenting the many layers of his character, in an anchoring performance that works quite well for the movie, also because he manages to retain a sense of measure throughout.

The movie “All Ears” is definitely worth watching, especially for fans of art house films in the style of Zhang Lu and Hong Sang-soo. However, a shorter runtime would greatly improve the overall experience.