A true city kid, Taipei resident 10-year old Bao (Liangyu Yang), is accustomed to being surrounded by technology and is showered with gadgets by his upwardly mobile parents. But the holes in his sneakers belie another truth, benign neglect by those he needs most. Caught in the midst of his distracted parents’ divorce, he is shuttled off with his sister, Seaweed (Lin Ya-ruo), to rural Quchi for the summer to live with his elderly and recently widowed grandfather (Kuan Yun-loong). Bored, despondent, and sullen, Bao begins his transition from childhood to adolescence in a wholly unfamiliar and uninspiring environment. At first, he resists overtures at connection by his grandfather. In a remarkably natural performance by Kuan Yun-loong, Bao’s grandfather is revealed to be much more than the simple, eccentric country dweller. Soon, Bao begins to open his mind and his heart to what seems to be a more authentic lifestyle in Quchi.
After transferring to a new school, Bao becomes friends with local kids. He starts to open up and enjoy rural lifestyle. Milestones come and go; birthdays, first love, coinciding with the ebb and flow of nature. Like nature, his milestones pass without fanfare. Somehow, he tries to reassure himself that the experience he’s having holds more value than ninety likes on Facebook.
A tragic turn of events forces Bao to experience the uncertainty and transience of life. He finally understands grandpa’s love for his deceased wife and the way he expresses his yearning. Almost everything is expertly understated. The film is light in tone, but profound in its quietness. Director Chang, a post-Taiwan new wave helmer, doesn’t romanticize growing up. Rather, he presents the stark realities of truths we all learn as we grow up, there is no such thing as permeance and the impossibility of connection, and in some ways we are all alone. But the presentation of these truths is simply beautiful.