Director: Yu Miao
Cast: Tong Dawei, Ma Li, Qiao Shan, Huo Siyan
RunTime: 1 hr 36 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Sexual References)
Released By: Clover Films and Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 10 January 2019
Synopsis: Seven friends get together for dinner, and decided to play a game where they must share all messages and calls of their cell phones. Throughout the evening, wechat messages, phone calls and APP notifications are coming out continuously. Hilarity and drama ensue together as everyone's secrets are unveiled and the seven friends find themselves more like strangers to each other.
Besides the time you went to sleep, when was the last time you were really away from your mobile phone? We are, of course, assuming that you own a smart phone with awesome camera functions, fast Internet connection and many convenient mobile apps installed. While we lament the stress that technology brings along, can we live without our mobile phones?
Italian filmmaker Pablo Genovese directed Perfect Strangers (2016), a movie about seven people at a dinner party who decide to put their phones on the table and reveal every text message or phone call they would receive that evening. This simple yet ingenious concept has spawned remakes in many countries like Spain, France and most recently, South Korea.
You wouldn’t expect China to miss this opportunity, would you? While we aren’t the biggest fans of remakes, this one is an almost perfect piece of work. Too bad the movie poster, which suggests that the film is a slapstick comedy, doesn’t do it justice.
The concept is similar, except that things are localised to incorporate WeChat and its remarkable functions, the ever amazing Chinese vocabulary, as well as familiar sightings such as food delivery services, video game chat rooms and girls offering live cam broadcasts.
Without sounding like a broken record player, you know how this movie is going to explore how social relationships have evolved with the advent of technology. The game will lead to unveiling of secrets between couples and friends, and you can expect lots of laughs and drama to ensue. While the premise sounds predictable, what we did not expect were outstanding performance throughout and a surprisingly relatable (read: not preachy) message that is honestly moving.
The most familiar actor in the ensemble cast is Tong Dawei (Dearest), who plays an aspiring screenwriter with a rich girlfriend (played by first time actress Ming Xi, who is a professional model in China). At the dinner table are two other couples and a successful career woman. Without giving too much away, expect Pandora’s boxes to be opened. While we may not be familiar with actors like QIao Shan (Wu Kong), Huo Siyan (Operation Red Sea), Tian Yu (Legend of the Demon Cat), Dai Lele (Extraordinary Mission) and Ma Li (Goodbye Mr Loser), they each deliver performances which, in our opinion, are more memorable than most of the stuff we have seen in the past year.
Yu Miao’s directorial debut sees how the mobile phone is indispensable, yet increasingly becoming a barrier for communication. The writers have done a good job incorporating different stories into a seamless screenplay. The 96 minute doesn’t just take place at one location – you see supporting characters being weaved into the story. There is a food delivery guy making an honest living, a mother in law who decides to make a video will, and a powerful yet shady corporate executive amongst others.
This highly recommended movie is entertaining enough without being frivolous, and packs a strong social message to remind us what communication between people is really about. Are you ready to put down your phone to make face to face contact with your loved ones?
(The entertaining movie features strong performances from its ensemble cast, and is a noteworthy commentary on how social relationships have evolved with the advent of technology)
Review by John Li