The film opens with the calm idyllic setting of Grass Island, a remote fishing town off the China coast. A man, Ah Hoi is preparing a meal for his elderly mother Ah Ma. The picturesque location and the minimalist dialogue offer a sense of serenity lulling the audience into the tranquility of the film. Linhan Zhang’s 2020 short film The Last Ferry from Grass Island uses scenery and patience to build a story of loyalty and the danger lurking nearby.
There is little to no sound in the film, which complements the situation the characters find themselves in. Ah Hoi, once a stealthy killer for the Triad, now retired, tends to his sick mother who is happy to be watching the television. Throughout most of the film, the majority of the sound comes from the television faintly audible in the background. Despite the near quiet of the sounds, Xiaoma arrives, an assassin sent to kill Ah Hoi, and she is soundless. Zhang does an excellent job of building suspense throughout the film. The lack of sound impacts the film, making scenes thrilling or heart warming, as in scenes between Ah Hoi and Ah Ma.
Zhang’s directing is beautiful and pairs well with the remarkable cinematography of Giorgos Valsamis. Shadowy shots down hallways or sweeping views of the shore mesmerize audiences and draw them into the story. The film also features a great cast. Tai Bo, Yang Wang, and Yee -Yee Yeung work well together in this film that relies mostly on their movements to explain the history between them.
The Last Ferry from Grass Island, is minimalistic in dialogue and the story-telling is direct. Yet, the acting and directing unravel the story, bringing it to life. The Last Ferry from Grass Island premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and will be featured at the Palm Springs Short Fest.