Statistics show that LGBT people are far more likely to suffer from mental health problems than heterosexual ones, but it still remains rare for queer cinema to tackle the everyday nature of this issue. We’re accustomed to seeing gay trauma because of a lack of acceptance at home, or for greater political reasons that stand in the way of equality, yet it is far harder to articulate the average struggles of individuals battling against their issues. I Miss You When I See You is an effective dramatisation of depression and its self destructive tendencies, and how even after spending many years in a welcoming environment, your inner tensions don’t disappear so much as they just simmer in the background.
Jamie (Bryant Ji-Lok Mak) is on holiday in Melbourne, where he visits his old school friend Kevin (Jun Li), who is living in a commune and seeking help with his depression. This unexpected meeting causes Kevin to reevaluate his life, and he flies back to Hong Kong soon after – he moves in with Jamie and his girlfriend (Candy Cheung), gets a job as a supply teacher, and attempts to regain some normalcy to his life. The only problem? Before moving to Hong Kong many years prior, Kevin and Jamie expressed their romantic feelings for each other, only to get displaced by a police officer who saw them making out. Jamie quickly avoided chasing any further desires, while Kevin has spent the best part of the following years infatuated with his former schoolfriend.
Director Simon Chung, one of Asia’s most prominent LGBT filmmakers, navigates around any conventional conflict you might expect from this premise. He’s not particularly interested with the idea that these two might rekindle their feelings for each other, so much as he wishes to explore how two people with a complicated, secret history would react upon meeting up years after fate broke up any chance of a relationship. It’s not exactly a novel premise, but it feels raw and honest due to the unflinching portrayal of depression it is coupled with; there’s nothing sensationalist or overblown about how Kevin confronts a tortured moment from his past. His withdrawn demeanour when speaking to people he used to know, or increased destructive inclinations when distracting himself from his emotional pain, resonate because of how tangible they feel.
In addition to Jun Li’s expertly judged performance, I Miss You When I See You helps you see the world through Kevin’s eyes via Chung’s stripped down style. Although one step above the Dogme 95 technique pioneered by Thomas Vinterberg and Lars Von Trier, Chung accentuates the harsh natural lighting of Hong Kong to acclimatise the audience to the overwhelming nature of seeing the city through a depressive malaise. It’s an initially distracting stylistic choice that eventually compliments this specific mental health case study very well – the bright lights of a recognisable city becoming blinding due to how incapable the character is at confronting his troubled past within its confines.
I Miss You When I See You is an affecting, stripped down look at the emotional toll a fleeting romance can leave. It’s not exploitative in its portrayal of mental health issues, nor overblown in how it depicts the manifestation of depression – but it is painfully realistic.
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Breaking Glass Pictures