No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti

No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

This black and white tale of a father and daughter's bond in the face of bureaucracy is a curious beast. Take the title, for example. Despite the Spanish indication, this is a film from and about modern-day Taiwan. The film's structure is also odd, beginning not at the start or the end but at the midway point, although this doubtless mirrors the way actor/director Leon Dai first came across the real-life story on which the film is based.

News cameras train in on a man. He's clinging to the outside of a bridge with his young daughter sandwiched between he and the metalwork. As with so many stories seen on the news, all the reporters are interested in is the here and now - a suicidal, possibly murderous, madman - not the reasoning behind his actions. This melodramatic opening, however, gives way to a story that is much more neo-realist in nature as we learn how he comes to be driven to this desperation and must, in fact, live through it.

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The man is Li Wu-Hsiung. He lives a ramshackle existence in an abandoned warehouse by the docks with daughter Mei. By day he dives for a local dodgy boat captain, while Mei watches from the surface to make sure his elderly air equipment doesn't kill him. Theirs is a silent dad and daughter team but the unspoken bond they share is clear. Despite essentially having dropped off the welfare map, as Mei reaches her seventh birthday officialdom comes to call. It's time for her to go to school but when Li goes to register their household, he finds that because his ex-wife as remarried, biological bond or not, he has no legal right to register Mei as his daughter.

What follows is the grinding of wheels - with the pair of them grist to the mill - as Li goes from pillar to post in order to try to rectify the problem. Despite his best efforts, matters spiral out of control as Mei is taken into care, meaning he faces yet another uphill struggle to try to win her back.

Similar in its commentary on the frequently cruel nature of 'justice' to Masayuki Suo's I Just Didn't Do It, this is film that has obviously been made to put a point across in Dai's homeland and is hard work initially for a foreign audience. As it reaches the midway point and the emotional aspects of the screenplay take over from the bureacratic dance that has gone before, however, it hits more of a stride. In terms of the look, there are plenty of striking images, enhanced by the monochrome look, but the story could use more meat.

Reviewed on: 29 Jul 2009
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A single dad faces a battle with bureaucrats as he struggles to bring up his daughter.
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Director: Leon Dai

Starring: Chen Wen-Pin, Chao Yo-Hsuan, Lin Chih-Ju, Ma Ting-Ni

Year: 2009

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: Taiwan


EIFF 2009

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