Father to Son (2017) Film Review

Written by Tinzar Lwyn


Premiered at the International Film Festival in Rotterdam, the third feature of Hsiao Ya-Chuan , Father to Son, is a heartfelt, personal film, that explores a multi-generational father-son relationship. Inspired by the death of his own father and his experience of parenthood, director Hsiao has created a deeply moving, yet emotionally restrained portrait of a complex and entangled human bond. Hsiao deservedly picked up the Best Director gong at the 20th Taipei Film Festival for this creative offer.


Set in a neighbourhood of local shop-owners, whose paths continually criss-cross, Father to Son spotlights the stoic Van Pao-Te (played by Michael JQ Huang), an inventor and local hardware store owner. Discovering he is dying of a Pancreatic illness, Van decides to travel to Japan with his son Van Ta-Chi (played by Fu Meng-Po), to find his estranged father. And just as the father-son duo leave for Japan, a significant stranger, Newman (played by Samuel K) arrives from Hong Kong, which raises questions about his own paternity.



Philosophical question regarding the origins of identity - to what extent is it independent of our antecedents - is one that has preoccupied us since time immemorial and the narrative rumination of Father to Son is no exception. Here the stories of betrayal, romantic entanglements and mortality are drawn small in scale (like the Bonsai plants in Van’s courtyard), yet the moral is universal in application. Director Hsiao places these miniature lives against a backdrop of profound existential inquiry. He even includes a reference to Taiwan’s tumultuous political history and its concomitant complex identity – drawing a parallel between paternal relations, both personal and national.



Beautifully shot by Cinematographer Lin Tse-Chung, the soundscape is innovative and the pacing flawless. The emotionally stirring score by Chris Hou and Summer Lei creates magic in the final scenes, as the past and the present entwine like a double helix, spiralling and connecting father and son. The past imbues the present with such intense feeling, that love and heartache is palpable - capturing the human condition in all its glory and frailty.


Father to Son, streaming on-demand until 30 July. Watch Now.