PIFF 2021: Invisible Love – Review

Release Date – TBC, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 50 minutes, Director – Xiang Guo

Jailed for murder Nguyen Thi Hoa (Hoang Thi Bich Phuong) finds herself reflecting on the relationships and affairs that have plagued her life.

Thrown into a dark, cold, isolated jail cell, shackled and bleeding Nguyen Thi Hoa (Hoang Thi Bich Phuong) finds the most painful part of her imprisonment is perhaps the memories that come flooding back to her. Memories of a life filled with complicated relationships and affairs. The words “I just want to live a quiet and simple life” are claimed at one point over the film’s mostly flashback narrative. However, her life in 1930’s French Indochina is anything but, especially because of all the people who jump in and out of it in its various stages of luxury and poverty. Safety and chaos.

Perhaps one of the most significant relationships in the film is that with American physician James Marquis (Kazy Tauginas). As army complications come into play, in regards to more than one relationship, and Thi Hoa learns more about the world around her the many people she comes across begin to experience tension. It’s perhaps this relationship that begins much of the worry and complications within the central figure’s life, with emotional consequences rapidly falling onto her. The film certainly works best when focusing just on Phuong’s character, particularly when depicted frightened, alone and cowering in her cell. She’s scared of both her situation and the hundreds of thoughts that are racing through her mind, seemingly only some of which the audience are allowed into in a lengthy narrative. There are certainly some flashbacks and characters that have a bigger impact than others, the English language performances are certainly not best, including interactions with the owner and employees of a materials shop in the more involving second half of the film.

With each relationship we see Thi Hoa almost become someone else each time, however she remains the continuously hurt and scarred figure who we continue to refer back to torturing herself in prison, for the murder of her husband. It is, again, such elements that work the best, the more personal moments for the protagonist as she searches for a calm life, only ending up causing more chaos and heartbreak within the one she’s currently living. One that is occasionally drawn-out and slow in pace, the film does sometimes feel somewhat lengthy as relationships are starting to develop and character interactions are being worked out. However, there’s always the more personal beats to refer back to that help to lift things back up and remind us of the mixture that is being, or has been, created for the central figure. It just sometimes takes some time to get to this reminder within the sprawling arrangement of relationships we see acted out throughout the film.

The relationships throughout Invisible Love can sometimes feel lengthy and sprawling, however it’s the personal details of the central character that manage to keep you somewhat involved, particularly within the more focused second half.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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