Hundreds of Harvard Protesters Stage ‘Die-In’ to Demand End to Violence Following Gaza Hospital Blast
Harvard Dean of Faculty Hoekstra Confirms Anthropology Prof. John Comaroff Still Sanctioned
Harvard Academics Call on President Gay to ‘Unequivocally Condemn’ Targeting of Students Supporting Palestine
Berkman Klein Center Hosts ‘Future of the Internet’ Summit, Obama Cancels Due to ‘Covid-like Symptoms’
Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan Takes Aim at ‘Unserious Politics’ at IOP Forum
The theme of young Asian Americans separating their identity from the ambitious wishes of their parents is becoming more prevalent in the media. While it may not contribute anything new to this topic, “Love in Taipei,” directed by Arvin Chen, is the newest addition to the catalog. Based on the 2020 young adult novel by Harvard’s own Abigail Hing Wen ’99, it is a colorful, feel-good romantic comedy that will make viewers smile.
Ever Wong (Ashley Liao) feels like her parents have her whole life mapped out for her, beginning with her childhood in small-town Ohio and culminating in admission to medical school at Northwestern University. So when they surprise her with the news that they are sending her to a summer school in Taiwan for her to learn about her heritage, Ever has no option but to agree. Desperate to fulfill her parents’ expectations for her life, Ever is unable to voice her true feelings to them, whether it is about the summer program or her dream of pursuing dance instead of a medical degree.
Also attending the summer school are Rick (Ross Butler), a seemingly perfect “Boy Wonder” with a secret love for cooking, and Xavier (Nico Hiraga), a troublemaker who meets Ever while she is rehearsing a dance routine for an audition. Ever connects with both of them, partly because all three face pressures at home to be someone other than themselves.
Ever soon learns that the program is called “Loveboat” because of the real reason the students are there: To have fun and find love. With the help of her extroverted roommate Sophie (Chelsea Zhang), Ever, who is initially nicknamed “Never Ever” due to her constant refusal to go out, slowly breaks out of her shell, putting aside her strict to-do lists and the earbuds she wears to block out the rest of the world. She ignores curfew, explores the city, and bonds with her aunt, an unconventional artist living in Taipei. As she discovers more about herself, she begins to question the path set in front of her by her parents and reflect deeply about what she wants for her life. Ultimately, Ever gains the courage to be comfortable with not knowing what comes next — a far cry from her mindset at the beginning of the film.
Liao embodies Ever so endearingly that it is easy for the audience to empathize with her and lose themselves in the exciting city of Taipei — as well as a difficult love triangle. With her contagious smile, she exudes a warmth and bubbly naivete that persists even when she navigates hardships of life and love. Another strength she has is her ability to act in both serious and comedic scenes, whether it is confessing to her aunt about how lost she feels or bantering with Rick or Xavier.
Adapting a book to a movie is always challenging, and several plot points could have been developed more. For example, what happened to Megan (Chloe Fox), Ever’s friend from home? She speaks with Ever on a few FaceTime calls and then disappears. Does Rick give up his passion to please his family? And how does Ever eat a hot dumpling without burning her tongue or aggressively breathing in and out? Though these questions may be addressed in Wen’s novels, they never find satisfying answers in this film.
After the screening of “Love in Tapei” at the Science Center on Oct. 13, Wen held a question-and-answer session with the members of the audience. She spoke about how “Loveboat” was inspired by a real program she attended many years ago and how she focused on preserving the authenticity of her characters’ experiences as Asian Americans from the pages to the screen. She revealed that, in many ways, Ever’s story is like her own. Both grew up in Ohio, where they felt like outsiders, and both were torn between what they believed they should do and what they wanted to do. Like Ever, Wen chose the latter and pursued a career in writing. The third book of her “Loveboat, Taipei” series will be released on Nov. 7.
While “Love in Taipei” is about an exploration of one’s roots and culture, it is most importantly about an exploration of oneself. Even when it sometimes feels like more and more people have become cynical about cute, heartwarming movies, the film is a delightful reminder that such stories do — and should — continue to exist.
Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.