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Eat Drink Man Woman

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Jonathan Tam
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Eat Drink Man Woman

Director: Ang Lee


From the processions of death to the evening congregations of a typical chinese family, Eat Drink Man Woman is in every way a snapshot of the tumultuous modern chinese life of the mid 1990s. The film explores the growth of a father and his three daughters as they brave through the chaotic sequences of school, work, love, and daily life - only to be anchored in a single constant every Sunday, food. The film’s concept is derived from a confucian classic that describes our innate desires for “meat, drink, and sexual pleasure.” This is explored through the growth of each character in dichotomous ways - such as the youngest daughter who works at a grimey fast food restaurant, but emerges to love the quickest; to the second daughter who is seemingly romantically-inclined, but leaves the pursuit of love for food. Much can be said about each character's development, but ultimately it comes down to the fact that life can be boiled down to a very simple Chinese equation: We eat. We love. And we die. From the looming nature of the father’s death to the death of a close relative, the concept of death is explored intimately. But, i was intrigued by the concept of death more so because it seems as though a lot of conflicts that originally start boil down by the next Sunday encounter. One might see the view of death and the ephemeral nature of life present in how quickly conflicts resolved and how life and love push us forward.


Where the prowess of characters will make Eat Drink Man Woman a film you can stick around for, sequences are choppy and will leave you with vacancies for assumption and inference. When things are not provided as clearly as they should be, this ruins the suspension of disbelief that is created over your eyes. I definitely saw this as Ang Lee’s way of introducing sharp surprises, but this ultimately derailed my full enjoyment of the film.

With the thoughtful nature of cast and imagery, Eat Drink Man Woman is definitely a film to be brought into the classroom. Granted, there are sexual themes and moments, the film provides such an intimate homage to chinese culture that non-Chinese audiences can see and Chinese audiences can appreciate. It doesn’t sell you with overly romantic moments, but provides its romance in different ways - such as the love for food and family.

The movie also explores a ton of other themes that are incredibly classroom friendly too including the emerging role of women in the late 20th century, challenges to filial piety, and the need to accommodate / assimilate to the 21st century. This provides a very unique platform for discussion - that in the mix of values, customs are what anchor us in place.

I give Eat Drink Man Woman, an 8/10.