Chinese/American filmmaker Doris Yeung’s sophomore feature is an ambitious and intriguing medley of three separate stories that highlight the disparity of wealth and social standing in contemporary Asia. Each of them center around around a taxi of some sort ….. hence the title ….. and are set in Hong Kong, Beijing and Jakarta respectively. They have no real link, yet Yeung and her editor Martijn van Veen weave them together so beautifully that they naturally overlap each other.
The Beijing section is the tale of a closeted gay taxi driver (Wen Chao) who hits on Nick (Nathan Chu) his younger handsome passenger who originally jumped into the cab with a some innocent looking boy (Boer Ye) that he has just picked up in a Bar. Now finished with the boy, Nick is looking to throw his wealth around on his next conquest, but doesn’t reckon with the brazen attitude of the poor driver who has to work a double shift just to stay afloat, but yet who is singularly unimpressed with the bulging wallet.
In Indonesia 13 year old Adi (Aji Santosa) is living in the slums of Jakarta and has to drive the beaten up old Bajaj scooter-taxi as his uncle is drunk and the family need money for food. One of his passengers is Samantha (Rebecca Lake) a good looking Australian tourist and he mistakes her kindness as flirtation, and thinks he is going on a real date with her even though she is easily twice his age.
Whilst in Hong Kong wealthy Monica (Corallin Cao) a trophy wife is trapped in a loveless marriage with Kenneth (Aaron Chow) and dominated by her bossy mother in law (Petrina Fong). She turns a blind eye to the fact that her husband rapes their maids, but this time she actually starts to form an attachment herself to the latest one Dewi (Shanty Parades), especially when the maid helps her cover up her latest miscarriage.
These fascinating stories have a particular resonance as in this region of the world, social mobility is all based on wealth, yet in these instances all the ‘poor’ protagonists are their own worst enemies as they chose to pass up on their opportunity to get their hands on more money than they have ever dreamed they could have. They all share this very real sense of survival as they struggle to compete in a world that financially is simply leaving them very firmly in the past. Yet the neat twist is what makes their tales so compelling, and is because of their reluctance to take the easy way out is what which actually makes their lives richer in the true sense of the word.
Yeung evidently mixed her casts with both famous Asian actors and also inexperienced amateurs, and it is to her credit that all of them really shine in these fascinating stories of hers.
Taxi Stories, which gives us this brief but incisive window into theses cultures that are so removed from most of ours, is having its US premiere at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, and hopefully will find the other American audiences is so deserves, after that.