Prince of Tears (2010)

Director: Yonfan
Plot: Two sisters whose family moves to Taiwan after their father fights in the civil war against the communists in mainland China, find their lives turned upside-down after their parents are thrown into jail and accused of being spies.

Genre: Drama
Awards: Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice).
Runtime: 122min
Rating: NC16 for some mature content.



Yonfan’s Prince of Tears is a mediocre film. Don’t be fooled by its Golden Lion nomination at Venice because my suspicion is that the film was selected due to its subject matter – an overtly political one – rather than on the basis of how it was portrayed. Here, Yonfan tackles a sensitive period that happened about sixty years ago in Taiwan – the White Terror. This was a period of mass hysteria when an anti-Communist campaign swept the island resulting in panic and the disruption of lives.

Prince of Tears is a film of two inconsistent halves and it runs nearly thirty minutes too long. In short, it is a bore-fest. The first half is quite good actually and holds the promise that the film could rise above what I deem as the “chronically ordinary Asian picture with strong political overtones about a torrid time in the past”. The first half hour is tragic, powerful, and beautifully directed and cinematographed; it is perhaps the only reason I give this film a passing score.

Prince of Tears is filmed from the perspective of two young girls whose lives are affected when their parents are arrested by military forces based on unfounded suspicions that they are Communist spies. The innocence of the children is affected when they discover that things are not what they seem in the “adult world”. Yonfan’s intention to capture this “shattering of innocence” goes down as quite a failure. This is because of his overemphasis on a sub-plot that depicts a romance between two of the lead adult characters and thus overshadowing the emotions as faced by the children and muting the political aspect of the film which he so adequately built up in the first hour.

The final thirty minutes are a letdown. In the context of this film, I would go as far as to say that they are a travesty. Every scene drags on when it could have been concluded much earlier. In one needless sequence, a character apparently “comes back from the dead” to make love with his wife. That is the point when Yonfan completely loses control over his picture. Prince of Tears sadly becomes a tale of three lovers struggling to covertly show their romance for each other amid a turbulent period of political and social uncertainty that seem to have been all but forgotten by most viewers by the time the end credits appear.

GRADE: D (5/10 or 2 stars)

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