Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
As I was watching Days of Being Wild (Wong Kar-wai, 1990), I felt myself getting bored by the film. The narrative is more fragmented than the previous two Wong Kar-wai’s films that I watched. Happy Together (Wong Kar-wai, 1997) and In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000) both had episodic structures, but the narratives of those two films were easier to follow because the films mainly focused on two to three characters. In the case of Wild, the viewer must keep track of six different character arcs and figure out how those arcs intersect.
After watching Wild, I realized that a main reason for my disengagement with the film is the lack of plot. The film is more of a character exploration than what I would call a story film. Additionally, much of the conflicts in Wild are not really resolved. For example, the main protagonist, York (Leslie Cheung), has a desire throughout the film to meet his birth mother. Towards the end of the film, York travels to the Philippines to find her. When he learns that his birth mother refuses to see him, he leaves her property and does not look back. The anticipated meeting is anticlimactic because York’s voiceover narration during the scene is detached and resentful. Furthermore, the other five characters do not have neat endings to their character arcs. For the characters of Su Luzhen (Maggie Cheung) and Mimi (Carina Lau), York’s two exes in the film, they are left all by themselves at the end of the film. Su Lizhen misses out on an opportunity to start a new relationship with a policeman named Tide (Andy Lau). Mimi stays fixated on the idea that York will rekindle their relationship, so she follows him to the Philippines, but she is never able to find him. Much like York’s storyline, the other characters are left with unfulfilled desires.
Wild is the third Wong Kar-wai film that I have seen, and I have noticed that a recurring theme in his work is dysfunctional/unrealized relationships. In Love, Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) and Mr. Chow (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) never move beyond friendship, even though they had clear romantic chemistry with each other, because they both are already married to other people. In Happy Together, Fai (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) and Po-wing (Leslie Cheung) form a volatile relationship with each other and they are never able to work through their problems. Lastly, in Wild, York starts relationships with two different women: Su Lizhen and Mimi. York first dates Su Lizhen. When she asks if he would ever marry her, he says no, which prompts her to leave. Then York dates Mimi, who he eventually leaves so he can travel to the Philippines to find his birth mother. York possessed a nihilistic attitude throughout the film and did not really care about Su Lizhen and Mimi. He used them as a substitute for his fractured relationship with his two mothers. York even allows Su Lizhen and Mimi to fight each other over his love. In the end, all three of these characters never get the relationships that they desire.
What I did not realize when watching Wild is that the film is part of an informal trilogy with Love and 2046 (Wong Kar-wai, 2004). The character of Su Lizhen becomes the character of Mrs. Chan in Love. I also read that Mimi appears in 2046. Since I already watched Love, the next film that I will review is 2046 so I can see how this trilogy ends.
Featured image courtesy of Mubi