Real estate agent May Lin (Yang) spends her days showing apartments to clients in busy Taipei. Unbeknownst to her, a young salesman named Hsiao-kang (Lee) has found a key to one of her properties and spends time there. Meanwhile, May Lin meets Ah-jung (Chen), and they use the empty apartment for illicit sexual encounters. Ah-jung then steals the key and also starts using the place on his own. The two men eventually run into each other and start a hesitant alliance to avoid detection by May Lin. The stark, modern apartment and the bustling urban landscape outside its windows form the backdrop for the fractured relationships of three lonely people.
Director Tsai employs a minimalist approach to fashion a work of astonishing depth. With barely any dialogue, the film speaks volumes about modern isolation and the inability of people to connect. The characters don’t exchange names and even telephone calls are terse and impersonal. Tsai films with a detached eye but fleshes out his characters with telling vignettes: May Lin lunching at a street café, Hsiao-kang secretly putting on women’s clothes, Ah-jung driving around the city. Deliberate and languorously paced, this award-winning study of alienation and existential malaise is profoundly affecting. Vive Tsai Ming-liang!