Partners in Crime is the reason I love the New York Asian Film Festival. It’s the reason I love film festivals in general. It’s the sort of gem that you will likely never see outside of a festival. I have always been impressed with the Taiwanese cinema that this festival in particular brings out. Twice since I started going they’ve done a “Taiwanese Cinema Now” that showed off unique and fascinating films that made me interested in just seeing more.
Partners in Crime is the sort of film that interests me. It’s a film where kids who live in a city go to a school in a jungle in the middle of that city. A girl commits suicide and three high school students find her. And suddenly they’re inextricably linked by this event. The nerd, the outcast, and the delinquent. They would never be friends, but they bond over a mutual desire to understand what could have convinced her to jump.
What follows is intriguing and shocking, portrayed beautifully with some of the most compelling images I’ve seen on a theater screen in quite some time. Every single moment drips with style, and as the narrative unfolds and the events take on an even darker turn, the beauty of the images creates a fascinating clash. These dirty events are portrayed cleanly, with absolute precision. The geography may be warped, and the character reactions twisted, but it feels oddly natural. This is particularly true in the use of social media, as the trio build a case based on a trail ostensibly left by the jumper. Later, underserved public shaming brought to mind the horror film Unfriended. But where Unfriended spent its entire runtime on that sort of thing, Partners in Crime uses it as just another part of the world, to build up this alternate reality where things may be just a little off, but not quite enough to be disquieting. You’ll notice the weirdness, but you’ll brush it off, because the execution leaves little room for criticism.
It’s sad that films like Partners in Crime don’t get the kind of exposure they deserve, but it kind of makes sense. I’ve probably downplayed the weirdness of this film, because I spend so much time watching weird Asian movies that it’s become hard to faze me. Increasingly, it all feels “normal,” whatever that means. In reality, though, I think it’s as niche as the film festival that showed it. But that’s a shame, because I want everyone to see the film. I want us all to love it together, to discuss it and remember all of its amazing little moments. To think about just how clever and insidious its narrative is.
But even if I can’t discuss it with anybody, I’ll still have that. And I certainly won’t forget it.
Partners in Crime (共犯)