Instead of asking ourselves why no local director had thought of making a comedy film based on foreign workers (this was a popular topic during the recent elections, no?), we shall instead discuss what a charmer this Taiwanese film is.
This is definitely not your usual Taiwanese production: The fact that it ninety per cent of its dialogue is in Tagalog tells you so. It also features a Filipino cast whose names we have problems pronouncing, and cameos by Taiwanese actors in blink and miss appearances. The premise is simple and effective – Two foreign workers Dado and Manuel discover a discarded sofa in Taipei city and what was meant to be a routine Sunday turns into a whimsical adventure.
Director Ho Wi Ding and his co writer Ajay Balakrishnan has concocted a delightful tale of perseverance and self discovery in this entertainingly enjoyable movie. It helps that the two leading men Bayani Agbayani and Epy Quizon have a charisma which is endearingly appealing. Agbayani's portrayal of the more serious and responsible Dado is a nice contrast to Quizon's take on the carefree romantic Manuel who just wants to go with the flow. The duo's on screen chemistry is spot on, making us want to be part of this hilarious adventure of transporting the sofa back to their dormitory, just so that they can enjoy the night breeze in comfort – with beer in their hands, of course.
The leading men's female co stars do a decent job of portraying workers trying to get by in a foreign land. Meryll Soriano plays a domestic helper whom the wedded Dado develops a relationship with. Alessandra de Rossi (you may remember her playing the lead role in Kelvin Tong's The Maid some years back) takes on the role of a club singer Manuel sets his eyes on. Elsewhere, you may spot familiar faces like Joseph Chang, Bowie Tsang, Mo Zi Yi and Lu Yi Ching popping up in the least expected scenes.
Those familiar with Taipei's sights and sounds will enjoy the unique cosmopolitan feel painted by cinematographer Jake Pollock. The smart choice of featuring a red sofa (it stands out nicely against the dusty backdrops of the city) on the protagonists' road trip is also a testament of the filmmakers' eyes for visuals. Watch out for a surreal scene where the two friends sing along to a cheerful tune while floating down a river on the sofa – it is one of those dreamlike sequences which we wish can happen in real life.
Malaysia born Ho made the wise decision to avoid the weighty issues of social commentaries on the unfair injustices the protagonists have to bear with in a foreign land. Instead, he weaves in everyday situations that audiences everywhere can identify with into this accessible 93 minute production. With a capable cast and an ingenuous visualisation of the screenplay, the director has made a highly recommended buddy movie which will has both mass and critical appeal. This work earned Ho the Best New Director accolade at last year's Golden Horse Awards.
Essentially, this is a movie about the people we go through life with. Throw in sprinkles of fun and laughter, and we get an honest look at what we would do for the people we genuinely care about.