This beautiful but slightly sluggish tale of love, loss, and resentment - a box office hit in Taiwan - will reward the most patient of viewers
As heartwarming as it is bittersweet, Joseph Chen-Chieh Hsu’s feature debut Little Big Women has us confront the realities of grief and asks what it means to mourn when we still hold grudges. Chen Shu-fang stars as Lin Shaying, a karaoke-loving matriarch whose plans for her 70th birthday are soon interrupted when she gets word that her estranged husband has passed away. Though still haunted by the anger at his gambling and infidelity, she proceeds to hold his funeral, if only to spite the woman discovered to have been his long-term partner until his death.
With her three daughters (Hsieh Ying-xuan, Vivian Hsu, and Sun Ke-fang) and granddaughter already in town, these women are forced to lay bare the complexities of expectation, legacy and forgiveness within the family unit at large. Individually and altogether, these are multifaceted, interesting and well-written characters who represent the spectrum of women and emotion.
The issue lies in the fact that they aren’t given enough space to fully bloom; the film has a difficult time juggling all of the conflicts and character dynamics that it throws at you, which winds up hurting its pacing. And while the script is sharp and witty, the film often favours intricate dialogue over narrative progression. Those with little patience (something perhaps common for the quick-fix attitude of a Netflix streamer) will perhaps find even less for a film that suffers from a lack of balance.
Still, Little Big Women is an undeniably beautiful watch, utilising the harsh contrast of traditional Taiwan and the concrete and neon-light drenched vision of modernity to amplify the clashing dynamics of the characters: a conglomerate of tradition and conservatism, as well as modern growth. Prominent in the film are shades of red, often used to visually unite the different members of this family. After all, in East Asian cultures, red thread has connotations of being bound together.
On its home turf, Little Big Women was a huge box office hit, claiming several awards at the country’s equivalent of the Oscars, the Golden Horse Awards, back in 2020. It’s a refreshing addition to see amongst Netflix’s endless (and often repetitive) acquisitions, though you'll perhaps have to conjure up a little more patience and understanding than usual. Such is often the way when dealing with grief and long-held grudges.
Little Big Women is now streaming on Netflix.Where to watch