Contemporary World Cinema

Angels Wear White

Vivian Qu

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Chinese writer-director Vivian Qu (Trap Street) creates a moody modern-day noir with this thriller set in a sleepy seaside village, where a teenage motel receptionist and the young victim of a brutal assault are caught in an ever-tightening net of danger and violence.

This second feature from the brilliant Chinese writer-director Vivian Qu — whose beguilingly moody debut Trap Street graced the Festival in 2013 — whisks us away to a small seaside village where tranquility is torn asunder by a terrible crime. A modern noir focused on complex female characters, Angels Wear White possesses a distinctive slow burn that may prove to be Qu's signature.

Working the graveyard shift at the reception desk of a sleepy maritime motel promises little excitement for teenage Mia — until one night she becomes the sole witness to an assault on two schoolgirls by a middle-aged man. Fearing the consequences of speaking up, Mia decides to keep quiet on the matter. Twelve-year-old victim Wen, however, quickly realizes that the violence she endured that night is only the first in a litany of troubles. With seemingly nowhere to run, Mia and Wen find themselves caught in an ever-tightening net that they alone can free themselves from.

Gorgeously shot by cinematographer Benoît Dervaux, Angels Wear White is at once luminous and dark. Drawing upon her experience as an ace producer (Night Train, Black Coal, Thin Ice), Qu brings a level of detail and production values far beyond what you might expect from a director's sophomore outing. She deftly lures us into her eerie world of danger, elicits our compassion for her heroines, and leaves us awed by the storytelling prowess of a powerful filmmaker.

GIOVANNA FULVI

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