Directed by Jenny Lu, The Receptionist is inspired by real events and offers a bleak look at Britain and sex-workers from an outsider’s point of view. Tina, played by Teresa Daley, is a Taiwanese graduate struggling to find work in London. Despite being told she has a good C.V. she is forced take a job as a receptionist at an illegal massage parlour operating within a residential property in London. Initially repulsed by what she sees, Tina soon starts to question her prejudice towards her co-workers.
The film does not share in its protagonist’s judgement of the workers and allows the audience, along with Tina, to find the humanity in what is a desperate and dangerous situation for the people who work at the parlour. The characters are treated with a respect and warmth. The supporting characters, Sasa and Mei, are given extra life through the performances of Shiang-chyi Chen and Amanda Fan. Chen (of Stray Dogs fame) in particular steals the film with a powerful yet understated performance .
London seen through the eyes of Tina is almost unrecognisable. Suspicious, threatening and downright hostile, this is far removed from the London we generally see portrayed on film which makes the film absolutely essential in today’s political climate. When the women interact with the outside world the encounters are always confrontational and have a feeling of apprehension.
Lu’s direction is bleak and austere, the gloomy interiors of the massage parlour are hidden to the outside by covered windows highlighting how invisible these women are to society. While it may not say anything groundbreaking, The Receptionist does offer a unique view into the immigrant experience in England. This unflinching look at people operating on the fringes of society is not an easy watch but it is a film that deserves your time and attention.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Jenny Lu, Yi-Wen Yeh
STARS: Teresa Daley, Shiang-chyi Chen, Amanda Fan
COUNTRY: Taiwan, UK