Director: Pang Ho Cheung
Cast: Louis Koo, Miriam Yeung, Gigi Leung, Eric Tsang, Chapman To, Shawn Yue, Ng Man Tat, Carrie Ng, Choi Kit, Lee Man Kuai, Dada Chen
RunTime: 1 hr 36 mins
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scenes)
Released By: GV
Opening Day: 22 May 2014
Synopsis: When the British first arrived in Hong Kong, they landed in a small inlet to the south that they later named Aberdeen. It was the beginning of Hong Kong as a colony, as well as the growth of Hong Kong from a small fishing village into today’s vibrant metropolis. It is exactly this beginning which gave Aberdeen its Chinese name: “Heung Gong Jai” – or “Little Hong Kong”. Dong is the patriarch of the Cheng family. A descendant of generations of fishermen who once made a living off of the riches within Hong Kong’s harbor, Dong experienced the end of his family’s profession when they were forced to move off of their boats into housing estates in the late 1960s. With their livelihood no longer possible, the family sent Dong to become a Taoist priest to perform rituals for the deceased. Dong’s two children are Ching, the elder daughter, and To, the younger son. Ching retains the beliefs and superstitions of the older generations, but is haunted by her difficult relationship with her parents, especially her mother. To, on the other hand, has long embraced the values of modern, capitalistic Hong Kong – from a luxurious house and maintaining his good looks to his fascination with collectibles such as Star Wars figures. Ching is married to a doctor, Cheung, who is having an extramarital affair. Like Ching, he is also undergoing a crisis – stuck between a wife obsessed with the past and a young nurse who is in too much of a hurry to build a future. To, likewise, is also married. His wife, Ceci, is a model who is at the twilight of her career. Insecure about her aging and her moribund career, she is further rattled by her husband’s insistence that their daughter, Chloe, does not look like them. The truth about Chloe conceals a secret Ceci is unwilling to reveal. Chloe, meanwhile, is fond of her doting father but is unwilling to tell him that she is being bullied at school. She is also attached to her pet chameleon Greenie. And it is this attachment which will lead her into a world of imagination that nowadays barely exists in a place like Hong Kong. The extended Cheng family, like Aberdeen’s namesake, represents today’s “Little Hong Kong” and its myriad of contradictions between traditions and modernity; superstitions and materialism; family and individuality.
There’s a scene in Hong Kongfilmmaker Pang Ho Cheung’s latest movie which moved this reviewer (almost to tears, literally): A three generation family having a leisurely breakfast in McDonald’s. Yup, that’s how simple this scene is. For some strange reason, you find this scene familiar. When was the last time you had a worry free breakfast with your family in McDonald’s? Remember how the scrambled eggs tasted so good? Remember how Ronald McDonald’s smile was always there for you when you looked at the colourful wall mural?
What we are very well aware in this day and age is, amidst the casual chuckles and relaxed chatters is an undercurrent. Sometimes, this undercurrent is so strong, the consequences are undesirably tragic. Is this what Pang is attempting to explore in this film that is reportedly five years in the making? Or is this a political commentary on Hong Kong’s seemingly reconciled history with Britainand China? While we may on this side of Asia may never fully appreciate and understand the film’s underlying themes and symbolism, this gem is still a highly recommended production that is well worth your time.
The three generations of a family are the protagonists of the story penned by Pang. They come together as they cope with the trauma of the past and learn to reconcile and move on. Miriam Yeung (Love in a Puff, Love in the Buff), who has an estranged relationship with her parents, is a museum tour guide who leads a mundane life with her husband Eric Tsang (Ip Man: The Final Fight, Hello Babies), who is having an affair with his nurse. Louis Koo (The White Storum, Out of Inferno) is the brother of the family, a successful and good looking tutor married to Gigi Leung (La Lingerie, The Monkey King), a celebrity whose career is on the decline. The two beautiful people have a child who isn’t the cutest kid you’d want to take Facebook or Instagram photos with. The father of the family is the sorely missed Ng Man Tat (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Dunk), a medium who is given the cold shoulder by his children because of his relationship with nightclub hostess Carrie Ng (Hi Fidelity, The Silent War).
It seems like an ordinary script, but you can trust Pang, whose past works include the highly recommended Men Suddenly In Black (2003), Isabella (2006) and Dream Home (2010), to tell a poignant story about human relationships and the intricacies that come with them. In short, he is painting a visual picture of life itself. There are many moments in the 96 minute film that will leave you thinking – is Pang telling my story?
It also helps that Pang has a cast that delivers top notch performances – Yeung is wonderfully repressed, Tsang is a joy to watch when he isn’t wacky, Koo is as charismatic as ever, Leung plays a caricature of herself (the singer actress was never really taken seriously as an artist), while the two veteran Ngs (Man Tat and Carrie) have some of the best scenes in the movie. Chapman To and Shawn Yue also pop up in cameo roles. The cinematography by Jason Kwan, the editing by Wenders Li and the score by Peter Kam are also examples of why every Pang directed movie is a must watch.
Above all, the true to life elements in the film, whether portrayed in a fantastical setting or not, will leave you thinking about the meaning of life long after the credits roll.
(What is life? Look no further than Pang Ho Cheung’s latest poignant drama film)
Review by John Li