TIFF Next Wave 2015: Partners In Crime
The mysterious death of a high school student spurs three boys to investigate in the beautifully haunting Partners in Crime. From Chang Jung-chi, this taut psychological Taiwanese thriller is a well-polished piece of thoughtful filmmaking, a slow unraveling of high school life, curiosity, and despair.
Something is clearly off in this world where a young girl has fallen from her balcony. The circumstances are unknown, but these trio of young men from the same school yet disparate lives and unknown pasts happen upon each other. As they know nothing of one another, despite matriculating together, they also know nothing of the deceased classmate. But traumatic circumstances and unknown forces bring them together to form bonds, and soon they take it upon themselves to figure out what happened.
The three navigate a school where there are allies and enemies, where the rather standard problems of everyday teenage life manifest themselves in different ways and may or may not have affected the deceased. They learn of each other as we learn of them, jumping through time in this carefully-crafted, fully-realized world.
It’s an interesting look at young Taiwanese culture, with moments both seemingly intrinsic and universal. They scan social media, wondering about what certain photos mean, and talk to those boys who may have crushed on her, those girls who maybe didn’t like her. The boys are isolated singularly and within the group, but it’s more complex than simply being ignored by parents. There are feelings that cannot be properly expressed or even identified or acknowledged.
Such is the power; it’s not simply about uncovering the mystery of she who died, it’s about the mystery of those who remained alive, trapped perhaps as she may have been. They are seeking answers to her end so as to speak to their own meandering and confusing journey.
Tempered and quiet, Partners in Crime waits until a startling finale to swell. It seems all the careful conversations, all the moments of whispers and stares build to staggering reveals that are completely grounded in reality in this riveting tale.