Reclaim is a Mandarin Netflix drama film from Taiwan. It showcases the life of a woman Yeh lan-hsin who is on the cusp of retiring. A nice house where her entire family could live, while she takes care of them is all that she wishes.
Yeh lan-hsin is a daycare teacher and an art gallery owner. After over 30 years of service, she wishes to retire and spend her time travelling, while also taking care of her family.
Lan-hsin’s husband David is a retired man who collects antiques to sell them when their value appreciates. Despite being home all day, David barely contributes to the upkeep of the house.
Both her children are well educated, Chia-yu is a PhD scholar in the US where he lives with his family and Chia ning is an architect. The children only approach her when in need of something.
Lan-hsin’s 85-year-old mother who lives in a nursing home develops onset dementia that causes her to act out and get paranoid. This leaves the nursing home with no choice but to sedate her and keep her asleep for longer hours.
Lan-hsin wishes to get her mother home and take care of her. She cleans out the spare room but her daughter quits her job and moves into that room instead.
With a mission to keep her family under one roof, Lan-hsin begins house-hunting. She meets with an investment advisor Kuan-ting in the process who also happens to be her old student.
Kuan-ting shows her a house which she instantly likes. She decides to put a deposit on the house. However, he lures her into a fishy scheme by asking her for 6 million USD with the claim of doubling her investment in 6 months and also giving her the down payment money in 2 weeks.
She takes the deal and agrees to invest. Kuan-ting duly pays the first instalment in 2 weeks but then goes under the radar, similarly conning other people in the process.
Upset with nothing going her way and her family not helping out, Lan-hsin begins to rethink her role as an individual. She finally catches a break when she visits her mother in the nursing home.
Hee-Ching-Paw as Lan-hsin delivers an authentic performance of a woman who is the personification of organisation and management, she takes care of everyone’s needs except her own.
Shih-Hsun Kou as the obnoxiously demanding and patriarchal David is a scene-stealer and manages to both irritate and captivate the audience every time he is on screen.
The supporting performances are lukewarm.
The film has impeccable attention to detail. The miniature house that Lan-hsin rebuilds in the beginning and completes at the end serves as a full circle to the plot.
The story portrays an authentic relationship between Lan-hsin and the most important women in her life- her mother and daughter. The transition in thinking and personality is also depicted with clarity.
Another observant scene when Lan-hsin, after realising her sense of self, finally sits on the leather chair that David usually sits on, is satisfying to watch.
Like multiple Asian motion pictures from K-dramas to anime, food plays a crucial role in the film and is presented using the relaxing ASMR technique.
Representation of Taiwan’s economy is evident in the film, especially in the aspect of the generational wealth gap issue. Young people with better education are unsuccessful while their parents are happily retired.
Reclaim takes a documentary-style approach, providing true insights into the protagonist’s life and her roles as a daughter, a wife, a mother and a teacher.
Reclaim does not work as a great character study. Instead of a story arc, the viewing focuses on a few days in the life of the protagonist, which while insightful, mostly consists of mundane tasks.
A significant part of the film follows Lan-hsin looking for houses and investment options, which does not affect the end or the other characters significantly.
Supporting characters, except the husband, do not seem 3 dimensional and just act according to the plot’s convenience.
Falling for scams is a rampant issue in Taiwan and the film barely covers the surface.
The shift from the investment scam to self-discovery is not a seamless transition and feels awkward and confusing. Introducing the self-searching element earlier in the story instead of in the last 15 minutes would’ve been a major plus.
Kuan-ting showing up again, in the end, is rather confusing and has no obvious implications.
Exploring themes of identity and a sense of community and individuality coexisting, Reclaim (2022) is a slow watch and hence not suitable for everyone. The audience can appreciate the details in the film and correlate them with societal incidents.