SYNOPSIS: A romantic comedy usually involves a handsome man and a pretty woman. But what happens when it’s a 'manly' woman, and a 'womanly' man? One day, a brassiere drops on Teochew. He immediately wins the lottery and decides to keep it. Hainan begins an arduous search for her precious underwear, distributing hundreds of missing posters around her neighbourhood. Teochew sees one of the posters, and his curiosity is piqued. Bumping into Hainan one day, he asks about the brassiere, although he has no intention of returning it. Unfortunately, he lets slip more than he should, and Hainan becomes suspicious...
While “Perfect Rivals” was the movie which enjoyed a wide commercial release, we believe that the Han Yew Kwang film that should have deserved the same treatment instead is this little-seen gem “When Hainan Meets Teochew”. Shot before the former, and receiving only a limited big screen release at specialty locations, this is truly one of the most original and most hilarious local films we’ve seen in a while.
The premise like most of Yew Kwang’s earlier films is simple- an unlikely romance between a manly woman Hainan-boy (Lee Chau-Min) and a womanly man Ms Teochew (Tan Hong Chye) that blossoms after an incident involving a missing bra. Yes, you read that right, the two meet after Ms Teochew picks up Hainan-boy’s bra which fell off the clothes peg after she hung it out to dry.
If that doesn’t already raise a chuckle, we think you need to get your sense of humour checked. Yew Kwang, who also wrote the script, fashions the rest of the breezy if a little brief 81-min movie with the same quirky humour embodied in the film’s very premise, so don’t expect the usual rom-com tropes in what has been billed the “most un-romantic movie of the year”.
The hilarity goes up a notch further after Ms Teochew moves in with Hainan-boy following an incident with her- pardon me, his- landlord and both misfits grapple with the possibility that they may just found the ideal companion in each other. Indeed, even though they defy society’s conventions of man and woman, Yew Kwang’s message here is simple- every individual desires to have company, and also to be loved.
Certainly, the rather open definitions of sexuality may leave some a little discomforted at the start, but Yew Kwang handles the potential controversies with deftness- and it is to his credit that the introduction of Hainan-boy’s ex-lover Meihui (Yeo Yann Yann) halfway through the movie who returns after a failed relationship with a guy adds, rather than diminishes, the rich texture of relationships within the film. By grounding the story in universal themes of solitude and companionship, Yew Kwang makes his film accessible to one and all.
Of course, he has also found two great lead actors/ actresses in Chau Min and Hong Chye. Probably the most unlikely duo to be the leads in a rom-com, they defy expectation with spot-on performances that are the reason the gags are so enjoyable. In particular, Chau Min is truly wonderful as Hainan-boy- the actress surprisingly expressive with every frown, raised eyebrow and twitch perfectly timed for her scenes.
The combination of both Chau Min and Hong Chye’s pitch perfect acting, and Yew Kwang’s quirkily original and very funny script, makes for nothing less than one of the best local films we’ve seen of late. Indeed, this is the Han Yew Kwang film that deserves to be seen by a wider audience, and we recommend you to run out and grab a copy of this DVD especially if you haven’t yet seen it.
There are two Audio Commentary tracks on this disc- the one in English with writer/director Han Yew Kwang and producer Lau Chee Nien; and the one in Chinese with Yew Kwang, Chee Nien as well as the cast members Chau Min and Hong Chye. Both tracks seem to be recorded impromptu, which means that you’ll have to put up with some rambling here and there- but by and large, both are informative and interesting listens especially for the amount of hard work and thought that went into such an independent passion project.
There are also a couple of other featurettes. “Learn How To Curse in Hainan” has Chau Min teaching you some Hainanese phrases to scold someone you dislike- no worries, parents, there are no swear words here. Yew Kwang does a brief 30-sec Director’s Introduction to say some words of greetings to his audience about the film. Finally, there is a Promo Video which features celebrities and other local directors like Boris Boo telling you why you should watch the film, as well as a Music Video which captures perfectly the mood of the film.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio brings out the dialogue exchanges crisply and clearly. Visuals are clean and sharp, and colours are especially dynamic.
DVD RATING :
Review by Gabriel Chong
Posted on 26 June 2011