Po-Ching wakes up every day to a very specific routine and a house he must keep clean.
Living with obsessive compulsive disorder and mysophobia (a fear of contamination and germs) makes for an insular existence, and to others who might catch a glimpse of him on his one-day-of-the-month outside his home, he’s a weirdo.
When he meets Chen Ching on his monthly sojourn to the shop, he sees she’s a weirdo, too. Not only are the two both covered in protective gear, including rain jacket and face mask (obviously not so weird today), but Chen has a compulsion to steal the fifth chocolate bar in a stack and then pay for a trolley full of bleach.
She considers them “fellow travellers” and they eventually fall in love. It’s a chaste love, however, as kissing is too dirty for them, although they do give it a go in the film’s most touching scene.
I WeirDo begins as a quirky love story, a bright-toned rom-com, but shifts gears to fit the bill of an arthouse film with an existential core.
In the first half, as we’re introduced to Po-Ching and Chen Ching and their odd proclivities, I found myself annoyed with film-goers around me who laughed pretty consistently at their stories. I felt equally annoyed with director Liao Ming-Yi for exploiting their chronic conditions for chuckles, but when Po-Ching discovers his OCD has miraculously disappeared and Chen Ching’s hasn’t, the relationship becomes problematic and no one is laughing. One of the pair is now “normal”, but which one is it?
This mid-way shift in the film’s tone is where the hard work is done. Asking an audience to try to understand that ridding oneself of a life-long compromising medical condition is not necessarily a cause for celebration is tricky, and Taiwanese Ming-Yi takes a significant risk in doing so. This is the debut director’s greatest feat – and is perhaps unsurprising as he, too, claims to be a weirdo.
Also of interest is the fact that I WeirDo is entirely shot on an iPhone, which, given the cleanness and sharpness of the cinematography, should be applauded.
I WeirdDo screened as part of the Adelaide Film Festival, which officially closed yesterday but is presenting a series of “best of the fest” screenings throughout this week. Read more previews and stories here.