No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti (不能沒有你) is an intimate portrait of the relationship between a father and his daughter. Wu-hsiung, played by Chen Wen-pin (陳文尉), lives in an abandoned warehouse by the harbor in Kaohsiung where he undertakes the dangerous job of diving to repair boats. His daughter Mei, played by Chao Yu-Hsuan (趙祐萱), is his constant companion. Although Wu-hsiung doesn’t have much money he obviously cares deeply for his daughter. When the police come to inquire about Mei’s household registration and sending her to school a bureaucratic nightmare begins.
No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti is based on a true story. The law in Taiwan doesn’t permit the biological father of a child to be legally registered as the parent if they were not married to the mother. Even though Mei’s mother disappeared long ago Wu-hsiung cannot be legally recognised as Mei’s guardian.
The portrayal of the bureaucracy is very realistic. It reminds me of two documentaries I recently saw by Mayaw Biho, What is your Aboriginal Name? (請問番名？) and I Got My Name Back (把名字找回來). They show the difficulties indigenous people in Taiwan face in registering their original names in their own language. Again this is something that is such a basic right, yet involves coming up against a brick wall of bureaucracy. In No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti the civil servants and police fail to provide any real help saying they are bound by the regulations. A legislator, who was Wu-hsiung’s primary school classmate, is the only one who provides any real assistance. Yet not even the legislator can counter the wheels of bureaucracy once they are in motion. Wu-hsiung then engages in an increasingly desperate struggle to maintain custody of his daughter.
The cinematography is excellent. It evokes the dirtiness of the work in the harbor and the unfeeling, unsympathetic nature of the government bureaucrats. It also wonderfully captures the intimate bond between Wu-hsiung and Mei. The use of black and white gives the film a timeless feel.
In one of the most dramatic scenes in the film Wu-hsiung shouts, “Society is not fair!” Director Leon Dai (戴立忍) has done a superb job of portraying the unfairness of society in a beautiful and touching way. No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti is cinema par excellence.
Please note: The majority of the dialogue is in Hoklo Taiwanese. English subtitled version is screening at Xinyi Vieshow in Taipei.