Gateway | Dragons & Tigers
Laila is a young Filipina mother working as in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, as a cleaner at a massage parlour. She gets by in a grey-market job speaking very little Chinese. Yi-fan is a Chinese Malaysian, the son of underground communists, who, denied university in Malaysia, has come to Taiwan to study. But he finds that his foreign status and his quick temper quickly drive him away from his dorm to low-wage service jobs. These two marginalized people, meeting first by chance, then through Yi-fan’s persistent though gentle courting of Laila (who, married, is not at all looking for that kind of companionship), gradually forge a unique kind of relationship while speaking rather limited English to each other. At the same time, Yi-fan experiences powerfully moving memories of his traumatic childhood, wracked with violence, which took him from a hideout in the Malaysian jungle to a border prison camp.
Lau Kek-huat is himself a Taiwan-based Malaysian. He draws on his experience as a documentary maker in his first fiction film, made with Vera Chen, suggestively blending flashbacks, both rhapsodic and horrifying, with delicately textured daily life in this compelling not-quite-romance.
— Shelly Kraicer