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Starry Starry Night

Although its portrait of two tween outcasts negotiating a tentative pre-romantic bond manages to register as sweet without ever being cloying, Tom Lin’s Starry Starry Night never delves sufficiently into its characters’ inner lives to suggest more than a sympathetic surface involvement with these figures. It’s as if, not wanting to upset the delicate balance created by the timid connection of Mei, a lonely girl whose parents are divorcing, and Jie, the new kid in school who gets constantly bullied, the writer/director refuses to push things sufficiently far. In the film’s first half, he builds a mood of studied alienation, blurring backgrounds, isolating characters in uninviting environments, having people speak but not recording the sound. It’s a feeling he can’t rightly sustain once the two kids run off into the woods together, even as the pair reveals to each other their backstories in tender rather than heavy-handed fashion. Lin fills in the gaps with some handsome CG-fantasy sequences and a rather obvious central metaphor involving a missing puzzle piece, but he can’t make up for the fact that the film wants to say more about the fragility of childhood than it’s capable of communicating through its characters and their delicate, perpetually uncertain situations. Andrew Schenker


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