Orz Boyz (囧男孩) is a film about two primary school children in Taiwan. It is a wonderful mix of fantasy and drama. The stars of the film are two young boys who get up to all sorts of games and pranks. At the start of the film while being punished by their teacher they get labelled Liar No. 1 (騙子一號) and Liar No. 2 (騙子二號), which become shortened to just No. 1 and No. 2.
No. 1 is the older of the duo played by Li Kuan-i (李冠毅). No. 2 is played by Pan Chin-yu (潘親御). The acting of the the two boys is brilliant. They are completely natural in front of the camera and you really get the sense that you are directly observing their world. The adults quickly fade into the background as the two boys play games and seek to visit “Hyper-Space”, a fantasy land that lives large in their imaginations.
It soon becomes apparent why the boys run free with little interference from adults. No. 2 lives with his grandmother and his parents are nowhere to be seen. No. 1 lives in a hut on the banks of the Danshui River with his mentally ill father. The issues and problems that arise from their difficult lives at home form an important parallel story to the boys’ fun and games. The script weaves it all together well.
Children being raised in single parent families or by grandparents is an important social issue in Taiwan. The film gives a look at some of the difficulties it creates, especially when No. 2’s uncle delivers his daughter to the grandmother’s care. The uncle promises to send money every month and the grandmother retorts, “If money could take care of the child then just send it to the bank.”
Stories of ghosts and Martians are a frequent part of the boys’ lives. Similarly appeasing the ghosts and spirits is also something that No. 2’s grandmother regularly engages in. The supernatural world is something that influences many Taiwanese. The children’s playful approach to it forms an interesting contrast to the grandmother’s more serious attitude.
Orz Boyz is a film that will appeal to both children and adults with a great blend of fun and seriousness. It deserves a wide audience both in Taiwan and abroad.