By Lai Kun-Yu

“The Island That All Flow By” is a television film that was released in 2016. It perfectly combines social issues, teenager problems and characters’ personal struggles. It’s a great work that makes audiences feel the cruelty of this society, but also the warmth of the people.

The story is about Chia-Wen, whose son is accused of having sex with a girl under 16 years old. She needs to pay huge amounts of money since the girl’s father files a lawsuit. As a highway toll collector in Taiwan, she has no economic ability to pay. So she starts to get close to a truck driver named Chih-Hao, who admired her for a long time. Even though she doesn’t like him at first, she slowly enjoys the time they spend together. However, as her job is about to be laid off, everything she has, seems to come to a crucial point to crumble.

There are more and more films in Taiwan that try to combine story with social issues, but many of them don’t blend these elements very well. Why “The Island That All Flow By” surprises me is because it perfectly put social issues into the theme without being abrupt. The main role Chia-Wen’s profession is a highway toll collector in Taiwan, which is laid off in 2013. When these collectors are laid off, they claimed that their labor rights were not treated respectfully. This event becomes a background in this film, which makes the main characters struggle between supporting friends or just taking the money. However, director Ching-lin Chan makes the events become an obstacle instead of the core problem that Chia-wen need to resolve. It gives the audience knowledge about the social issue, but it also allows characters to develop freely.

The story between the characters is also amazing. The sadness and tragic feelings surround those who live in the bottom of this society, but the plot also lets slight happiness slip through their misery. Then the director shatters all the small happiness that builds from previous scenes when it comes to the tipping point, so the character’s arc is perfect and complete. Furthermore, it makes audiences feel heartbroken.

Another crucial part is the performance of the cast. Ivy Lin, who plays Chia-Wen, overwhelmingly controls her emotion and her acting tempo throughout the film. That’s why each time she freaks out, bursts out of tears or is happy, we can always feel what she feels. With amazing actor Jen-Shuo Cheng as the truck driver, the interaction is very vivid and convincing. 

Besides acting performances and the story, the symbolization of props also plays an important role in this film. Fish is mentioned throughout the movie, and it represents those people who struggle to live. Because fish can live in a very dirty environment, the similarity between the roles and fish become so obvious. Therefore when Chia-Wen’s son brings his fish to home, the image and conflicts are very clear. 

Even though it has some flaws on the communication of emotion, the film is still powerful. From how it presents the world of poverty to the storyline about the love relationships, “The Island That All Flow By” avoids cliches but also surpass audiences’ emotion expectations. Overall, this film is a unique work that is worthy for viewers to experience in every aspect.