Based on a true story, the story revolves around an older, unemployed Hong Kong man, his young Mainland wife and their twin daughters. Their lives, unfortunately are anything but easy and the shocking conclusion raises issues about the plight of the socially deprived lower class.
Such a shame, that this Ann Hui directed film never made it to cinemas (not even the art house ones) in Singapore. Sure, the theme may not be something which locals know very well about (the DVD cover tells us that the film is based on “a gripping murder” that shocked Hong Kong in 2004), but be assured that the universal messages of human nature are so well told in this potentially award winning piece, it may just move you to tears.
The story takes place in Hong Kong’s melancholic town Tin Shui Wai (the country isn’t all about shopping and food, just to let you know), and the protagonists in question are a young Mainland Chinese bride and her older Hong Kong husband. We have heard many such stories before: Man goes to China, man falls in love with a girl there, man marries the girl, man brings the girl home. But how many such stories have happy endings? As mentioned, this screenplay is based on a true account, and the filmmakers have gone through substantial research to bring this sad tale to screen. This we can tell you, though – both protagonists will die in a bloody state, together with their adorable twin daughters.
Before you start thinking that this is one potential headline story for the tabloid newspapers (complete with bold red fonts, sensationalizing certain elements of the tragedy), do take a moment to appreciate this 122 minute film, and go behind the headlines and understand the characters and where they come from. Different viewpoints are presented in the film, making you feel the sadness of how the contemporary society works today. And above all, you will see how human nature is added to the mix to eventually culminate in tragedies which seem inevitably unavoidable.
Award winning Hui (The Postmodern Life of my Aunt) sure knows how to direct her cast and tell an affecting story. The genuinely involving screenplay is what anchors this film at the end of the day.
Simon Yam’s (Bodyguards and Assassins) “you have to see it to love and hate him” performance of the unemployed Hong Kong man may earn him some acting nominations come next year’s award season. Same goes for Zhang Jingchu (The Beast Stalker), who plays the Chinese bride with so much delicateness, we can’t help but shed a tear for her.
The film is not all gloomy though. Through the happier flashbacks of the protagonists, viewers can sense the idealism and optimism felt by the characters before things went awry. Which makes us think about one very important life question: Where and how did things go wrong along the way?
The movie’s visual transfer is fine, and is presented in Mandarin.
Review by John Li
Posted on 25 December 2009