Starring Jia-Yin Tsai as Jiang Ying-Juan Heavy Craving the next film out from the East Asia Film Festival is a story about accepting yourself even if at times no one else does. Jiang is the cook at her mother’s playschool and is dubbed Ms Dinosaur by the children. This is likely due to her shocking age (30) and her plus size frame.
Her life isn’t any better at home as her mother constantly berates her to eat less and lose weight. This is not helped when she is assaulted by her neighbour. Thankfully she is assisted by a delivery man. Spurred by his story of weight loss and by more helpful “nudges” by her mother Jiang begins her journey to a better version of herself. The question looming, however, is this journey really helping her become her “better” self?
In Heavy Craving you learn about the better self
Heavy Craving is a wonderfully frank film about weight loss and the struggles people have with it. The use of the model as a kind of spirit that haunts Jiang along the film is well done. She is this omnipresent force constantly teasing Jiang of what she could be. There is also the vernacular that the film uses. Many insults are thrown at Jiang throughout the course of the film but she lets them slide off her for the most part and it shows a special kind of maturity. There is even a surprisingly charming scene where Jiang and her friend Wu (Yao-Jen Chang) bond over the various names they’ve been called over the years. It’s a funny scene but much like the film, there is a lingering sense of tragedy layered within it.
Though the film has a sense of humour and is funny it never forgets that issues with weight and the stigma around it are a real problem people face. Wu has his own issues even though when we first meet him he seems to have everything in hand.
The reason why Heavy Craving worked so well for me was its cast. They acted their asses off. In particular, Jia-Yin Tsai who made me laugh then could bring me to tears within the same scene.
Director Pei-Ju Hsieh also should be commended for her writing as well as directing. Couple that with the cinematography of Hao-jan Chang and Heavy Craving is a film brimming with life. There is one scene where Jiang is fighting for her way of life and the way the scene is set up, the lighting and the direction it sticks out as a highlight in an already exemplary film.
All of these elements together make for a great film perhaps the best one out of the whole festival. If there were any issues it would be with the score. It’s quite comedic and at the start of the film that works but as the story reveals itself and we go on this journey with Jiang the film becomes far more of a drama than a comedy. Thus making the score feel out of place.
Heavy Craving is full of the complexities of life and because of that and the charm of its lead it is a much watch.
Stay tuned to Scannain for more on the East Asia Film Festival Ireland.