When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep (2012)
Chen-tung Ko, Man-shu Chien, Shu-yao Kuo. Directed by Chi-jan Hou. Mandarin with English subtitles.
A young man looking in the mirror one morning sees that a sticky note has been attached to his forehead. The message, written by his girlfriend, says “I’m off to the cram school.” His first response is to do nothing, for days on end, his apartment falling more and more into slovenliness, but when he finds himself with nowhere to live, he sets out for the area of Taiwan where the cram schools are, hoping to find his misplaced love. Instead, he meets the proprietor of a copy shop, whose clients include the cram school he believes his girlfriend is attending. The shop owner offers him a job and a place to live; the job offers multiple opportunities to visit the school and interact with its students, examination proctors, and instructors.
The copy boy befriends some interesting people, including a recovering alcoholic Christian minister whose hobby is selling noodles from a booth late at night, a cute young woman driven only by her love of money, and a proctor who likes to draw sheep in the margins of the tests he photocopies for her. She, too, is recovering from a lost love, counting the days to the deadline she’s set herself for getting over his absence, but she’s not the only one. It seems everyone in this film, perhaps everyone in the city or even everyone in the world, is dealing in some way with some kind of separation, some actively seeking resolution, some passively waiting for conclusions they can only imagine. The noodle-seller, the money-hungry girl, the garlic rice vendor, even the people who’ve left their belongings in the rental lockers that are soon to be torn down: each has a story, and if there are happy endings around here, they’ve yet to be realized.
When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep is mostly lighthearted fare, a romantic comedy with deeply bittersweet undercurrents. It tells its story simply, with very creative visuals including stop-motion photography to quickly show the passage of days and crudely animated sequences to illustrate some of the narrative. I laughed aloud a few times at clever editing and surprising details, and although the film’s conclusion doesn’t quite pass the would-this-happen-in-real-life test, the visuals it produces are worth the small dent in believability.
Is there such a thing as “forever and ever,” and should we be concerned about that if we cannot be sure of its existence? Or should we accept what we’re given today, when the only things we can be sure of are within sight of this moment? Here’s a film that, while not delving too deeply into the philosophy, delivers its take through the eyes and hearts of one small group of young people. It’s a fun exploration with a visually pretty climactic moment.