The Marginally Compelling Sincerely Yours


Closing the fall edition of MOMA’s once-a-month ContemporAsian series—an ongoing survey of little-seen festival fare—is a marginalized film about marginalized people that is, at best, marginally compelling. In Taipei, Javanese migrant worker Setia (Lola Amaria) serves illegally as a maid at a massage parlor, making far less than a living wage. Hers is a thankless existence that undocumented Thai laborer Supayong (Tropical Malady‘s Banlop Lomnoi) can relate to—his forced hustle includes construction-site thievery and gay sexual favors on trains. Out of basic human necessity and perhaps a kicked-in survival instinct, the two find and cling to each other for support and hotel-room romping, clumsily communicating through their mutual second language of Mandarin Chinese. Film scholar Rich Lee’s directorial debut—originally titled Detours to Paradise and inspired by Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul—clearly wants to expose the vicious cycle endured by the underclass as they suffer daily indignities while fretting about deportation as a fate much worse. Yet even with the elegant craftsmanship of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s regular cinematographer and editor, and dialogue as sparse as fellow countryman Tsai Ming-liang’s, Lee’s film deals in fusty anti-globalization sentiments and mostly meanders—aimlessly, impassively, and away from the rich Taiwanese canon.