“Light” (2021) Movie Review

A short film that was not-so-short, but caught my attention, nonetheless.

When I first saw the blurb for Light on GagaOOlala, I was reluctant to watch the movie. The words “sexually assaulted” and “forced to prostitute” were enough to put me off—the latter more so because it wasn’t really sex work-friendly. Considering the context helped me understand the choice of words, although I still find them hard to agree with.

The teasers, however, had a different effect altogether. I found myself wanting to watch this movie despite my previous misgivings about it. And I’m glad I did; Adiamond Lee’s Light, to me, was a Taiwanese BL movie more likeable than Dark Blue and Moonlight, a work of his that I’d watched when I’d started out as a BL fan a few years ago.

Released on August 13, 2021, Light is 44 minutes long, with a 4-minute music video after the credits. It revolves around Xiao Guang (Jed Chung), the movie’s namesake, a young sex worker who meets Shuo (Max Liu), a cop working undercover at a tailor shop to investigate the boss of a drug cartel in Taiwan. The chemistry between the two is present right from the beginning; their meeting at the shop, Shuo rescuing Xiao Guang off the streets after a customer assaults the latter, and the sequences that take place after Shuo takes him home are more than enough to highlight it. The sex scenes, whether it was the one with bondage or the tender one between the main leads, were well-taken (I’m sure a lot of people I know watched the movie for them).

Some things annoyed me (probably because I don’t do well when it comes to non-con). The scenes that depicted the abuse faced by Xiao Guang were very detailed—maybe a little too detailed for me (I’ve always found long rape scenes unnecessary). Although the ones in Light aren’t very long, they were still difficult for me to sit through.

I wasn’t too pleased with Shuo’s behaviour when Xiao Guang goes to him after being sexually assaulted by one of his previous clients. Shuo calls him a ‘disappointment’, saying that there are better ways to make money, despite Xiao Guang trying to tell him the client made him do it (without consent, may I add). He immediately assumes that Xiao Guang was back on the streets selling himself. I was also peeved by Xiao Guang; he forgives Shuo as soon as he hears the latter’s apology—but that may have been because of the short duration of the movie, which made that particular scene (and the movie itself) lose out in many ways. This may have also contributed to the feeling that the ending seemed rushed.

Despite all of this, I liked Light—something that surprised me, too, as media that depict non-con isn’t my cup of tea). The trials and tribulations that Xiao Guang went through, and the discrimination that sex workers face at the hands of people around them, were portrayed with nuance. The acting and the cinematography were perfect; I found it hard to take my eyes off the main leads. The music was beautiful as well, and the music video at the end of the movie gave us a glimpse of Xiao Guang’s pain as well as his desire for freedom from a past that constantly haunts him. A part of GagaOOlala’s #QueerUpTheVolume anthology, the movie deserves all the praise it has garnered over the past few weeks.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

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