‘Little Big Women’ Review: Heartbreak is a Family Affair
In the Taiwanese melodrama “Little Big Women”, a matriarch and her three grown daughters mourn a complicated loss. At the beginning of the film, the sisters learn that their father, who has not been in their lives for a long time, has passed away. This occasionally lovable and often seductive film, which incorporates sentimentality in every scene, explores what it means to mourn someone who has already been gone.
The film hits Netflix after a successful box office run in Taiwan and follows Lin Shoying (Chen Shu-fang), a restaurant owner whose family has faced a number of crises over the course of this slow story. Her biggest heartbreak, however, occurs in the first few minutes when her 70th birthday is interrupted by the death of her estranged husband. While Shoying reluctantly arranges his funeral, she privately vows to track down his youngest romantic partner.
Her daughters face their own dramas. The eldest, Ching (Hsieh Ying-xuan), runs into health problems. Jiajia (Sun Ke-fang) is annoyed by Shoying’s intrusiveness. And successful doctor Yu (Vivian Hsu) puts undue pressure on her own daughter, the sunny Clementine (Buffy Chen). While the sisters fight, director Joseph Chen-chieh Hsu peppers little moments of humor – most memorable a cockroach appearing during an incense ceremony – in the midst of adversity.
But even such stimuli get stuck with the Schmaltz of the film. A gentle panning camera and mild score milk each scene for emotion, and after more than two hours the women’s journeys drag on. By the time it’s over, “Little Big Women” has lost all sense of restorative power – all that registers is boredom.
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Not rated. In Mandarin and Hokkien with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 3 minutes. Watch on Netflix.