This film by director Simon Chung has a sweet surface that masks the pain below the story. It is the story of a western man found naked by the side of the river. The police pick him up but can get no information from him since he will not speak. He is sent to the hospital where Xiao Jiang, a male nurse takes an interest in him. As the film progresses we find out that the man is called Luke and that his trauma is caused through events that befell him and his boyfriend.
Luke is an exchange student, in China to improve his Mandarin. Here he befriends a small group of students that includes a couple. Luke’s interest is in Han Dong rather than in his girlfriend and, as their relationship grows, she grows suspicious at what is going on. Her attempts to find out the truth lead to the central tragedy of the film.
It is Xiao Jiang’s pursuit of the truth to discover why Luke won’t speak that leads us through the story. He tracks down the girlfriend and uncovers her involvement.
The ending could be judged as ‘happy’ but the delight of this film is in the sweet characters who try to deal with their attraction to each other and the implications of being gay in a society that isn’t welcoming to difference. But, love is where it falls and the intense attraction between Luke and Han Dong becomes a sexual relationship. The direction of the relationship between Luke and Xiao Jiang is left open. If you watch the film you will see why the possibility of a relationship between the two is available.
‘Speechless’ was filmed in secret in China, in the East Coast city of Shantou. It is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?