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By Jessica Baxter | January 22, 2014

Pui is a little Taiwanese girl who relishes time spent roughhousing with her male friends in order to satisfy her active and imaginative urges. But her traditional mother watches disapprovingly from the window and plots to divert Pui’s interests.

When Pui comes inside, her mother tries to steer her toward more “feminine” pursuits, like making floral arrangements. Pui’s mother is the worst kind of perfectionist, painstakingly examining each flower for ideal length and placement, leaving no room for improvisation or whimsy.

As Pui arranges, her mother corrects her work and lectures her about the importance of adhering to traditional gender roles. It seems a sad state of affairs until we learn that Pui is merely humoring her mother. She’s learning stealth rather than obedience. This is a key moment in every young girl’s life.

Director Rujiroj Thanasankittiwat employs blinding whites in his film. The kitchen scene in particular looks almost blown out at times. The pristine room feels intimidating and oppressive. It seems impossible not to soil it.

There isn’t much dialog in the film, but the scenery tells us enough about how particular, conservative and, well, anal Pui’s mother is. It’s no wonder Pui wants to rebel. The little girl who plays Pui isn’t yet a skilled enough performer to convey Pui’s feelings, but the scenery, and her physical response to her mother’s lecture, tell us everything we need to know. Thanasankittiwat’s light directorial hand lends “Pui” an elegance that it might not have otherwise had given the subject matter.

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