Episodic in its narrative structure, Mr. Miao is reminiscent of a road movie set in the mythologized version of ancient China where fire cicada sloughs have higher value than money... and thy neighbor. The fever dream-like journey towards the answers hidden in Thousand Buddha Cave feels simultaneously perplexing and fairly intoxicating, all by virtue of lovely hand-drawn designs, painterly backgrounds, and mellifluously melancholic score, all wonderfully complementing each other. The surreal, or rather mystical beauty of the world infused with magic and slight humor (code: ducks) reaches its full bloom in the cathartic finale which depicts the decisive battle in a transcendental whirlwind of light and colors.
“People see only what they want to see. People yearn for illusions.”
Directed with a great sense of style that brings to mind Jeunet and Gondry, Christina Sivolap’s feature debut is a charming period piece heavily inspired by magic realism in its approach to storytelling, as well as by Art Nouveau in its enchanting visual flourishes (many kudos to costume designer Lesia Patoka and art director Aleksandr Batenev). Set in a small Austro-Hungarian town at the turn of the 19th century, this fantasy drama chronicles the tale of a maid with the heart of gold, Stefania, who spices up the life of her half-sister mistress, Adela, and her husband, Petro, with delicacies that are so meticulously shot that you can almost smell their aroma! And what adds extra flavor to the viewing pleasure is the sparkling chemistry between the leading actresses Marianna Januszewicz and Alesya Romanova, whose characters appear to be founded on Grimm-like opposites.