Review: Taiwanese documentary filmmaker, Mu-Ming Tsai (Hanzi, Design & Thinking, Maker), spawns his first feature film, Paradoxical—a romance drama which goes hand in hand with a modest time travel chronicle. The result is an essay of love & time presented in a low-key, dialogue-driven cinema.
The film chronicles the blossoming relationship between an aspiring terrarium artist, Shi Jing (Helena Hsu, credited as Nai Han Hsu), with a cute geek, You Kong (Kenny Yen), whose job is related to a new time-travel technology called Time-lag. You Kong gets involved in a secret mission using Time-lag with a prodigy, Yuan Hai (Yuchen Ho); while Shi Jing begins to experience existential crisis as an artist. As their relationship grows, a thread of unrelated incidents around their lives starts to unravel a complicated connection between their past and their future.
Paradoxical utilizes time travel as an anomalous plot device, which functions almost like a paradoxical karma concept, hence the title. The whole time travel concept is barely ambitious; it has never looked explicit and it doesn’t ask for attention. It doesn’t enter into the story until half-way, bursting into the film’s untidy narrative structure which possibly is deliberate. The film’s modest presentation of the time travel might remind you to the similar concept used in Colin Trevorrow’s Safety Not Guaranteed.
Mu-Ming Tsai’s prowess in crafting documentary might influence his direction in this film, which appears without spectacles. Conflicts are guided through lite sci-fi dialogues and facial expression. The final result might be preachy at some points; yet, Paradoxical ends up as a subtle hipster drama built over time paradox. By the end of the film, you might want to repeat watching it to confirm which event might be the cause and which event might be the effect.