Guo Nian Hui Jia

Seventeen Years

by Chen Chiou Beng

After the unintentional murder of her stepsister for just five yuan [about US$0.60 - Ed.], Tao Lan is sentenced to jail. Seventeen years later, she was given a special pass out of jail to celebrate the new year with her family for three days. But with her parents moved away and her old residence demolished, she is at a loss. With the help of a prison warden, together they go on a journey to search for Tao’s family, but when they finally find it, Tao refuses to enter the house, as her guilt of killing her stepsister overwhelms her ….

A simple movie with simple storytelling, and based on a true story, Seventeen Years deals with guilt and redemption of a family faced with a past that almost cannot be redeemed. This can also be seen in the final scenes where Tao Lan reaches home, the scene where the mother confesses to her husband that she has known all along that her daughter is coming home today, but she did not tell her husband.  (After all, the killed stepdaughter is the husband’s daughter.)  In the end, the father’s thought is opened:  Where he initially wanted to leave his wife after her daughter’s return, but changed his mind when he realised that what he really loves is his current family.

The title, Seventeen Years, also drives across two meanings, the years Tao Lan has been in jail for manslaughter, and also the time a girl lost, her most precious times of her life. This is a film that should be watched, if anything, for the simple message it drives across.

Seventeen Years was shown on 15th April 2000 at the 13th Singapore International Film Festival.  Seventeen Years also won the Best Actress and Best Director for this year’s Silver Screens Awards.

Rated: *** / 5

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