At Cafe 6 - not just another Taiwanese coming-of-age film, says director

Neal Wu and Cherry Ngan were in Singapore on Monday to promote At Cafe 6.
Neal Wu and Cherry Ngan were in Singapore on Monday to promote At Cafe 6.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

Director Neal Wu's At Cafe 6 explores the topic of life decisions

First-time director, novelist Neal Wu, is not bothered that his new coming-of-age movie At Cafe 6 is seen as yet another youth romance flick.

Compared with its predecessors Our Times (2015) and You're The Apple Of My Eye (2011), he believes that the movie, based on his Web novel, will provide much food for thought about growing pains.

On his directorial debut, the 39-year-old writer says: "At Cafe 6 may look like a youth movie on the surface, but audiences will realise that it's more than that after watching it.

"It explores the topic of life decisions and how people may end up in different places because they mature at a different pace and move to a different environment."

He was in town on Monday with female lead Cherry Ngan to promote the movie. It opens in Taiwan and Singapore tomorrow.

Expectations are high for the film as Taiwanese school romances Our Times and Apple were both box-office hits. Our Times is the highest-grossing Taiwanese movie of all time in Singapore, with more than $3.5 million earned at the box office. It topped Apple's record of close to $3 million.

Wu takes a zen approach to how the movie might be received.

"I wrote the novel a decade ago, the movie took another three years. Of course, I hope that audiences will like the movie. But I believe that every movie has its destiny. I'll leave it in fate's hand," says Wu, who has also penned lyrics to songs such as Stefanie Sun's ballad When Winter Nights Get Warmer (2011).

He also appears to have taken in his stride a cheating scandal involving the film's supporting actress Ouyang Nini. She was exposed for getting someone to take her examinations on her behalf at the National Taiwan University of Arts last month.

Though the 20-year-old student cited personal reasons for backing out of movie promotions here, it is likely due to the bad press surrounding the scandal.

Even then, Wu says he is more worried about her, rather than how the incident might affect box- office figures.

He says: "Nini called me to say sorry. I told her that there is no need to apologise to me and to take care of herself."

Hong Kong starlet Ngan, 22, has been in the news herself, albeit for happier reasons.

She recently admitted to dating theatre actor Michael Ning, 36, who won last year's Golden Horse Award for Best Supporting Actor for his film debut, Port Of Call (2015) .

Enthusiastically listing her beau's attractive attributes, she tells the Singapore media: "Don't you think he's great? He has a good personality. He is humble, but not to the point that he has an inferiority complex.

"As we are both in the same profession, we understand how actors feel. We are on the same wavelength and have endless conversation topics. Most importantly, he makes me love myself for who I am."

Despite her young age, she is just as accomplished in the acting department as her boyfriend.

At age 20, she garnered a Best Actress nomination for her feisty portrayal of a hip-hop dancer character in Hong Kong dance flick The Way We Dance (2013).

She also clinched the Best Newcomer award by Hong Kong Directors' Guild for her role as a cop's daughter in the thriller, Nightfall (2012).

Critics have reportedly praised her natural acting in At Cafe 6, in which she plays winsome schoolgirl Li Hsin-jui, who is the dream girl of her classmate Kuan Min-lu (Chinese actor Dong Zijian).

Though the role of Li is similar to the school-going female leads of Our Times and Apple, Ngan assures audiences that she has made the role her own.

She says: "Every character has its own soul, its own unique personality and gestures.

"Even twins have their distinct characteristics."

•At Cafe 6 opens in cinemas tomorrow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2016, with the headline 'More than just school romance'. Print Edition | Subscribe