“MY EGG BOY”
One of the features of this year’s Asian Pop-Up Cinema series in Chicago, “My Egg Boy” from writer/director Tien-Yu Fu, dances with the analogies and symbolism to be found from eggs and aging to expiration in a uniquely literal and entirely charming way. The metaphorical meanings to be found in this film point to our own biological clocks, leading to an opening life lesson that screams at us from the forefront of the film onward:
LESSON #1: BIOLOGICAL CLOCKS ARE AWFULLY LOUD IN OUR HEARTS AND MINDS — The instinctual biological clock of procreation hits women (and plenty of men) in their twenties and thirties. Each imagined minute, hour, and year can stamp a person’s life like the expiration date on a carton of eggs. That corporeal urge can become a strong underlying catalyst for emotions in romantic relationships.
Set your stage with that in mind for “My Egg Boy,” the best romance this writer has seen in the first half of 2017.
The slightly neurotic Mei-pao (“Sweet Alibis” star Ariel Lin) works for a frozen food company as a product specialist and tester. As a younger associate at the office, she is put in charge of a new advertising push to attract younger customers to the somewhat dated brand. Recently divorced before she could even have a honeymoon, Mei-pao longs to be pregnant, but her over-involved dedication to work costed her a husband.
Inspired by to better emulate fresher food, Mei-pao crosses paths with A-Shi (Rhydian Vaughan of “Girlfriend Boyfriend”), an up-and-coming chef insistent on growing many of his own ingredients. Mei-pao represents a company wholly opposite to A-Shi’s sensibilities on food, causing him to turn his nose at Mei-pao’s attempt to court his restaurant to serve her company’s new line of improved frozen products. A-Shi is a perpetually single commitment phobe that isn’t looking for a wife. His desire for children stops at being a sweet uncle for his nieces and nephews, yet will always be propositioned dating opportunities.
As Mei-pao considers freezing her eggs to ensure her age and buy her time to get married, “My Egg Boy” twists a large tangent of its romance into high fantasy where actors portray her frozen eggs in nonsensical costumes inside the cryogenic storage. Two in particular, an Egg Boy (Huai-Yun Zhan) and an Egg Girl (the debuting Lyan Chen), long for they vicariously see through Mei-pao’s prospects for a love life. This story thread reveals a whole imaginary society bathed in white with a quirky class system of behaviors and youthful pecking order.
If you can have fun with this odd turn of events and addition of perspective, you will get a cheeky kick out of “My Egg Boy.” On paper and on-screen, it is undoubtedly a silly dalliance, but it grows on you. The adorable romance between the caricatured reproductive cells parallels the budding chemistry of the fetching human leads. There’s not an eyelash of beauty missing from the vibrant cinematography of Pung-Leung Kwan to blend the sunny and seasonal exteriors with the white dreamscape egg interior as a cradle for enchantment.
Leading an excellent female-centered feature, Ariel Lin conveys the topsy-turvys springs of her character’s impatience and initiative to find love. Unlike many American leads in domestic romantic comedies, she’s not a cornucopia of quirks. Instead, she’s approachable and relatable. Similarly, Rhydian Vaughan could have settled to play a simple handsome hunk. Not to be outdone, he sharply layers his character with layers of flaws and fears all his own.
The trappings of “My Egg Boy” are firmly entrenched in melodrama, yet kissed with delightful fancy. The strength is in the dynamic writing to weave practical magic with fertile imagination. The romantic and symbolistic peaks and valleys built by Tien-Yu Fu are endlessly relatable even when characterized. What begins as whimsy evolves quite affectingly to something rapturously heartfelt.
LESSON #2: MIXING FOOD PREFERENCES — Both within dating and beyond, the basic human need of appeasing hunger with sustenance has become a desirable communal experience between people interested in spending time with each other. Simply put, sharing a meal is an essential activity to courtship. It doesn’t rank high on the dating profiles, but different food preferences can make or break relationship potential. For example, steak lovers probably shouldn’t marry vegetarians. In “My Egg Boy,” ironic humor is found between the organic-ish chef and the processed comfort food pusher.
LESSON #3: ADJUSTING THAT BIOLOGICAL CLOCK — The first lesson presented the urgency of one’s biological clock. The challenge comes from attempting to adjust that clock when the right suitor comes, whether that’s practicing patience to slow it down or letting desire switch on a more silent clock. You are never entirely prepared for love and, guess what, you will never be entirely ready for children either. Focus on the right partner and the ticks-and-tocks will match soon enough.