BENDS (过界) (2013)
SYNOPSIS: BENDS straddles the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border and tells the story of ANNA, an affluent housewife and FAI, her chauffeur, and their unexpected friendship as they each negotiate the pressures of Hong Kong life and the city’s increasingly complex relationship to mainland China. Fai is struggling to find a way to bring his pregnant wife and young daughter over the Hong Kong border from Shenzhen to give birth to their second child, even though he crosses the border easily every day working as a chauffeur for Anna. Anna, in contrast, is struggling to keep up the facade of her ostentatious lifestyle into which she has married, after the sudden disappearance of her husband amid financial turmoil. Their two lives collide in a common space, the car.
Instead of making a statement, Bends ends up being an understatement.
The cross-straits issues involving Hong Kong and China are turning into a hot button in recent years. Hong Kongers have been taking into the street protesting the influx of immigrants across the borders. Through the characters of Anna (Carina Lau), a rich tai-tai and her chauffeur, Fai (Chen Kun), Bends is a social piece on these issues but the whole experience feels remarkably detached and that is probably due to the fault of first time helmer Flora Lau’s execution.
Supposedly due to a huge financial problem, Anna’s rich businessman husband, Leo (Lawrence Cheng in a cameo) disappears without a trace one day leaving Anna in the company of her domestic helper and Fai. Anna scrambles to sell her stocks and valuable assets while at the same time maintaining her usual self in front of her circle of fellow tai-tais, her daughter who is studying overseas and even her own mother.
Fai, Anna’s chauffeur has problems of his own. While he is already a Hong Kong citizen, his pregnant wife Tingting (Tian Yuan) is not. The cash-strapped Fai begins to brainstorm ways to bring his wife to deliver his second child across the border instead of facing a heavy fine back in Mainland and also the enticing fact that the child can be a naturalized Hong Kong citizen.
Despite having the prestigious Christopher Doyle onboard as the cinematographer and William Chang as fashion consultant, the partly government funded movie is only rich in terms of visual aesthetics. Lau’s matter-of-fact style of storytelling fails to do justice to the topic on hand. There’s so much to the narrative, which Lau apparently never showcased thus resulting in the relationship between two fallen souls becoming more of an afterthought.
Yet Carina Lau’s performance is superb as Anna. Her expressive face alone tells a dozen stories even though her character has only limited pages of dialogue. Painted Skin’s star Chen Kun on the other hand remains a wooden presence making his character less sympathetic than it ought to be.
Bends is a beautiful movie to look at but depriving of any dramatic moments and climax, the allegedly meaningful drama eventually is just an empty shell.
The visual on the whole is serviceable and the DVD comes with dual Mandarin and Cantonese soundtracks.
DVD RATING :
Review by Linus Tee