Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
Original Title: Niu pi
Jiayin Liu’s shocking directorial debut is a challenging, sometimes listless but conceptually very powerful film that takes her no further than her own cramped, dingy apartment. She casts herself and her parents Huifen Jia and Zaiping Liu as fictional versions of themselves, charting the disintegration of their relationship as prospects begin to look dim in their business. Her parents make leather purses for fashionable women and find that a series of bad business decisions are catching up with them and they are in danger of going bankrupt. The stress that father feels results in short-tempered outbursts against the other two, who respond similarly as a barely visible, slowly accumulating tension reaches almost imperceptibly to a dangerous boil. Filmmaker Liu emphasizes the emotional claustrophobia by filming the majority of the film in lengthy, static shots that are always a bit too close to a face, a floor or an object and bring you into the feeling of discomfort that the characters are feeling. It’s a lengthy torture that won’t be all for viewers, but it’s successful at its experiment and reveals a bold filmmaker making a startling debut.