FLARE 2010 - 'Hello, Goodbye' by Tay Li Cheng

Hello, Goodbye is one of the more narrative driven films in the student showcase. While the premise of the film actually comes across as rather Hollywood-influenced, that does not detract from the quality of the production, which is extremely well packaged.

The film traces the development of a pseudo-relationship between a chambermaid, Wen, and a jet-setting motivational speaker, Bryan. It sparks off as a result of little notes being left behind by both Bryan and Wen in the hotel room for the other party. While this comes across as a little unbelievable, as is the casting of Wen (why is such a young and beautiful woman working as a chambermaid?) the film is still enjoyable.

The art direction and cinematography of the production both evoke a nostalgic feel in the film. The cinematographer work to create the beautiful yellow tones of faded hotels and muted desires. The yellow tint also conjures up a sense of old-old charm.

The title of the film alludes to the brief liaisons between Bryan and Wen that take place in the hotel, and the best moments in the film come when there were fleeting moments of joy experienced by both Bryan and Wen during the times they genuinely connected through the notes they left for each other. The film is essentially about longing, about loneliness, and how people are desperate to connect. There are many quiet, still shots of long and empty hallways in the hotel, and they succinctly bring across this sense of fleeting connection – after all, the hotel hallway is where people bump into other people and greet others, but the interaction is kept brief and impersonal.

There are also many shots in the film that help to contribute to the feeling of loneliness experienced by Bryan and Wen, like ones of an empty bed, or of the hotel bed occupied only on one side. The camera often frames either Bryan or Wen sitting on one side of the bed, always making sure to capture the other half empty.

Ultimately, Tay has come up with a smart, aesthetically stunning and moving film on human loneliness and the desire to connect. It does not demonize Bryan – who speaks on preventing divorce when he himself is on the verge of a divorce, not does it try to portray Wen as an overly goody girl next door character. In a final curveball thrown at us, we realize that Wen is married (or at the very least in a committed relationship), and that is when the whole film starts to fit together and make sense. Tay shows us through the film the reality of loneliness in life and human beings’ desire for a connection deeper than merely saying hello and goodbye.

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