Sigh Gone

By Jeannie Nguyen | Comedy
A young woman longs for her 'lost love'. So she wanders the streets of Saigon.

Thuy is a young woman living in Saigon, Vietnam, and she’s recently been separated from the love of her life. She mopes around her apartment, killing time in odd and quirky ways as her mind drifts in and out of reveries, remembrances and longing.

She finally heads out into the hustle and bustle of daily life, looking for distraction. But it’s only when she runs back into her long-lost love that she comes back to herself.

Writer-director Jeannie Nguyen’s sweetly melancholy love song of a short drama possesses the plangent romanticism of Sofia Coppola and the wistful elegance of early Wong Kar-Wai, but its gentle wit (and ultimately clever ending) mark it as entirely contemporary to our times.

Exquisitely shot and edited, each image has a mood and beauty that captures Thuy’s state of mind, suffused as it is with ennui, longing and desire. Each frame of the film could be a gallery still, with its softly moody lighting and precise, poetic framing. Much of the film’s resonance comes from its sheer visual loveliness, though some may find themselves impatient with Thuy’s listlessness. But the film really comes alive when Thuy leaves the apartment and engages with the sights and sounds of Saigon, propelling her and is into a richly fascinating world.

Saigon itself is a secondary character in the film, both mightily busy yet indifferent to its inhabitants’ concerns and problems. The mix of modern tempo with the remnants of history is an intriguing frame for Thuy’s malaise, though the city’s bustling and densely populated nature pulls Thuy out of her comfort zone and sparks something in her, even if it is a latent sense of mischief and rebellion. When she finally seems to return to herself, she encounters her lost love once again, in a delicately rendered yet very witty twist that will spark recognition, no matter where viewers reside.

“Sigh Gone” is charming and romantic, with a sly, sneaky sense of wit — the type of film that rewards a second viewing hunting for subtle Easter eggs and hints. Plenty of viewers will find pleasure in its exquisite visual beauty or gently whimsical romanticism, but its twist is like a sharp bite of citrus in an otherwise delicate cocktail: it mischievously asks us to reframe what we’ve just seen and upends our notions of just what romance is in the first place.

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