The challenge when talking with director Jonathan Lim and co-producer Daxing Zhang about PALI ROAD is making sure that we don’t reveal any of the wonderful twists and turns this psychological thriller takes. The story of a woman who wakes up from a coma to a life she doesn’t recognize, but peopled with familiar faces who only want what’s best for her is a unique and elegant horror story as well as a haunting romance. What is real and what is hallucination combine with Hawaiian mysticism and true love as destiny.
When I spoke with the pair on March 14, we talked about the palpable spirituality that infuses the film, and how Lim had to work around the censorship rules of his Chinese co-producers in order to preserve that element of his film.
They went on to talk about how the film bridges cultures, what’s so special about the seventh day, and why they carried charms while NOT filming during the full moon. We finished up with Lim sharing one of the first lessons he learned at film school, and how he applied it to PALI ROAD.
PALI ROAD is a psychological mystery set in Hawaii about perception, fables, and the power of love. Michelle Chen stars as Lily Zhang, a doctor who finds herself in a reality that she can’t remember with a fellow doctor husband whom she doesn’t love, and a young son who is a stranger to her. Haunted by what everyone around her tells her is a hallucination about Neil, the third-grade teach she loves and their life together, she refuses to believe that something that seems so real could be a figment of her imagination brought on by a concussion. A film that is never quite what we expect it to be, the reality of emotions is never in doubt, while the subjective reality of common experience remains tantalizingly enigmatic, including the subtle menace of familiar faces truly wanting what it best for Lily, when what they agree is best violates her trust and her own sense of happiness. The film co-stars Sung Kang, Jackson Rathbone, Henry Ian Cusick, Lauren Sweetzer, Tzi Ma, Elizabeth Sung, and Maddox Lim. Jonathan Lim directed from a script by Doc Pedrolie and Victoria Arch. His previous work includes Sofia’s Diary China. PALI ROAD has won the Grand Jury Award for Best Feature Film at San Francisco CAAMFest 2016