Director: Tsai Yin-Chuan
Cast: Fann Wong, Li Li-Zen, Ryan Tang, Katrina Yu, Xie Fei, Ding Ning
Runtime: 1 hr 46 mins
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 15 December 2016
Synopsis: Nine-year-old Lan lives a peaceful and happy life with his parents and sister in a seaside town. However, his father suddenly passes away, and time stops for this family engulfed in grief. One day, Lan receives a mysterious package sent by his father before his death. Inside is an antique clock which its second hand no longer moves, just like his dad. The young boy then decides that he must fix this strange clock in hopes that if its hand moves again, the questions in his heart will also be answered
Our local starlet Fann Wong who has not appear in a Mediacorp drama for a while took on the lead role in this indie drama helmed and written by Taiwanese female director Tsai Ying-Chuan (My Dear Stilt).
Packages From Daddy is a somber and melancholic drama about a family of three and how they cope with the sudden death of the father (played by Li Li-Zen, hubby of A-list host Matilda Tao). Anchored by the wonderful performances of Fann and her two young co-stars, Xie Fei and Katrina Yu, the dramedy is often slow, thought provoking and hopefully makes you realized that everyone deals with the death of a loved one differently.
The opening scene opens with the father patiently teaching his young son on how to build a model of a sailing boat. This is followed by a brief scene of the family playing on the beach and swimming in the sea. This turned out to be the first and also last happy moment we see the family of four together. The next thing we know the father has committed suicide or heart attack as what the mother told her young son, Lan.
Things are no longer the same in the household and everyone in the family begins to change subsequently. Lan taunted by fellow classmates starts to get into trouble in school. His tween sister who blamed the death of her father on her mum starts to give her the cold shoulder. Mum who is now the family’s breadwinner has to put on a strong front to keep the family together. But the delivery of dad’s birthday presents to the various family members effectively alters the grieving process.
The clock in which Lan received is actually a chronometer and it has far more meanings and has a significant backstory which some might conceive as convenient plot mechanism. His sister got a motivational video by her favourite speaker and mum received a box of letters and gifts from their past exchanges. Tsai’s often-philosophical screenplay requires certain patience and your own deduction. For example, there’s never a clear indication of why the father got himself into debts or why his marine memorabilia shop faced foreclosure. The frequent use of flashbacks via the eyes of the children provides us with more narrative but not detail enough. We realized the father frequent indulged in drinks and the mum is often heard squabbling over financial matters with him.
Perhaps details are not the main draw here. The make-up free Mrs Lee or Fann Wong turned in a wonderful, mesmerising performance as the suffering wife and mother. A scene where she cried inconsolably to her onscreen sister is a good reason why an actress needs a solid script in the first place. Equally captivating is Xie Fei’s performance as the poor boy who blamed himself for throwing a tantrum on the day his father died. Of course, that applies to Katrina Ng’s portrayal of the tween girl who felt guilty for not bidding farewell to her dad on the fateful day as well.
Boasting scenic shots from Tainan and Kaohsiung, Packages From Daddy is not a drama that is filled with solid proceedings; it’s more about how a family behaved and connects emotionally after an unspeakable tragedy. The closing scene, which showed the family of three joyfully playing once again on the beach, is probably the only thing you need to know after a wave of heavy emotions.
(A subtle, low-key drama about grief and letting go)
Review by Linus Tee