Derek Tsang’s Soul Mate seems an odd choice for a Summer 2017 festival; it was already released in both China and the U.S. as recently as last fall, to much acclaim and considerable box office. Still, it’s hard to fault anyone for programming this decade-spanning melodrama of friendship, which centers on two young women (Zhou Dongyu and Ma Sichun) whose lives diverge after forming an inseparable bond in adolescence. Tsang’s film boasts stellar lead performances and a precise, lived-in sense of time and place that keeps the more shameless tearjerking grounded.
Zhou and Ma shared the Best Actress prize at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Film Awards last year, and each invests her character with a rare richness and complexity, while delivering all the raw emotive power demanded by Tsang’s predilection for close-ups. It’s thanks to these actresses that Soul Mate’s narrative rug-pulling works; their portrayal of Qiyue and Ansheng’s friendship represents an immediately credible tug-of-war between opposite personalities that complement one another even as they push each other out of their respective comfort zones and into strange new territories of adulthood. Sweet but never cloying, always emotionally astute and irresistibly moving, Soul Mate would be a highlight of any fest’s slate.
Published as part of New York Asian Film Festival | Dispatch 2.