Cities of Last Things movie cast: Jack Kao, Lee Hong-chi, Hsieh Chang-Ying, Louise Grinberg
Cities of Last Things movie director: Ho Wi Ding
Cities of Last Things movie rating: 3 stars
One of the best things about streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video is that you get access to content which you might not have been able to get your hands on earlier. Ho Wi Ding directorial Cities of Last Things is an example in case. The Chinese-French production had its first screening during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2018 and premiered on Netflix on July 11.
Cities of Last Things is an ambitious film spread over a man’s three big nights. Those three fateful nights define the man’s past, present and future. However, some of those connections seem a bit off at multiple junctures in the film, but the fact that a lot of thought has gone into making it a seamless affair is hard to ignore.
The man, Zhang Dong Ling, has committed suicide. And in reverse chronology, we get a glimpse of the three events that shaped his life and ultimately resulted in his death. The first part sees Dong Ling as an elderly man who has an unfaithful wife and a daughter that doesn’t seem to overtly care for her father’s well being. The second sees him as a young, diligent cop who gets wronged and spends a romantic night with a French woman called Ara. The third part of the drama showcases Dong Ling as a young teenager and his brief and tragic interaction with his mother.
This could have been a much more tedious and exhausting movie-watching experience had not it been edited so well. The narrative style is subtle and you would miss the jumps between those three pivotal parts of the protagonist’s life if you don’t pay attention. The film’s lighting and colouring is dim, hardly there, and in some places, rather exquisite; sometimes giving you the impression that you might be watching a documentary.
The wonderful part about this kind of experiment is that the filmmaker gets a chance to dabble with different genres, therefore adding depth to the overall storytelling. While the first part of the movie plays like a sci-fi drama, the second has a noir vibe to it and the third, your regular dose of family drama.
What makes Cities of Last Things watchable are the performances. Jack Kao, Lee Hong-chi and Hsieh Chang-Ying play the hero in different parts of the film. While Jack’s frustration is palpable, Lee shines as the young, hurt officer. Louise Grinberg is charming as the lost, sweet and smart Ara.
Of late, Netflix has not really been at the top of its game. Mediocre shows and movies have flooded the streaming giant and how. Thankfully, Cities of Last Things doesn’t fall into that category.
Cities of Last Things is currently streaming on Netflix.