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From TV talk show ritual to rock stardom dreams, pop culture is the site for magic and spirituality amidst today's soulless materialism. For teenage Ahda, son of a hilariously bad quack herbalist, everyday life is a pressure cooker of college entrance exams, army conscription papers, and trying to earn a living. But Ahda wants to transcend these restrictions by learning 'vaulting'—the ancient martial art of flying seen in Hong Kong Swordsman films, especially those of Tsui Hark.

Taiwanese director Stan Lai's ironic comedy delivers on the promise of his debut, The Peach Blossom Lan. At first, the line between Ahda's fan­tasies and reality is perfectly clear, but more and more goes wrong in his life and as he gets more desperate, the work world and his fantasies mix. Skilfully and imperceptibly, Lai leads us to that magical realist point where scepticism wavers and we suspend disbelief almost as eagerly as Ahda himself.