Director: Boris Boo
Cast: Wang Weiliang, Venus Wong, Chew Chor Meng, Chen Xiuhuan, Jeremy Chan, Roz Pho, Terence Then, Priscilla Lim, Melody Low, Veracia Yong
Runtime: 1 hr 46 mins
Released By: Clover Films, mm2 Entertainment & Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 18 May 2017
Synopsis: LUCKY BOY chronicles several decades of the lives of Lin Yu (Wang Weiliang), his family, friends and Qingqing (Venus Wong) - the girl whom he falls in love with in primary school and continues pinning for throughout his tumultuous and eventful life. Lin Yu is always one step behind others and surrounded by misfortune… Will Lin Yu, the destined "unlucky" boy, be able to change his fate?
Nostalgia, as ‘You’re the Apple of My Eye’, ‘Our Times’ and our very own Jack Neo duology ‘Long Long Time Ago’ has demonstrated, is a very powerful emotional language. As it turns out, ‘Lucky Boy’ is written very much in that same language. Spanning three decades from the early 1980s to present day, it references significant events in Singapore’s history to note the passage of time, including the collapse of Hotel New World, SARS and Mas Selamat’s escape from detention. Along the way, it harks back to how primary school used to look like in the 1980s (e.g. where students squatted by small drains watching fish swimming in them while learning how to brush their teeth), how secondary school boys used to ogle at the opposite sex and wait for them at the end of a school day outside their schools, and even how multi-level marketing as well as their products used to ensnare many ordinary (but greedy) folk hoping to make a quick buck. Oh yes, there are plenty of Singaporean moments to feel nostalgic over, and yet not quite enough to make up for the other shortcomings within this well-intentioned but gravely executed coming-of-age story.
On its surface, ‘Lucky Boy’ tells the life story of one unfortunate individual Lin Yu (Wang Weiliang) who has never had luck on his side. So named because his mother (Chen Xiuhuan) was caught in a downpour on her way to hospital to deliver him, Lin Yu not only has no luck at the lottery at the point of his birth (none of his birth numbers strike the lottery for his family) but is also foretold by a fortune master to have no luck in prosperity, marriage or children eventually. Except for an MLM scheme gone bad that he gets implicated for, Lin Yu’s misfortune is made up largely of missed opportunities with the love of his life Qing Qing (Venus Wong), whom he first meets as his Primary One classmate but loses contact with before the year is over. In brief, they will be reunited and fall in love during Secondary Four and throughout Junior College, separate after he enlists in National Service, meet next when he is his own ostensibly successful MLM boss but she is married to a philandering Japanese husband, go apart again when she mistakes him for having settled down after her inevitable divorce, and reunite finally for that happily-ever-after we know was coming the minute they met at Lin Yu’s father’s bookstore when they were just kids.
It is no secret how their love story will end, so what matters more is the journey than the destination. Alas that drawn-out journey over the course of one and a half hours not just feels as protracted as the chronology it is meant to chronicle but is also fraught with more frustrating and even infuriating episodes than tender and amusing ones. In fact, there is but one of the latter – that of Lin Yu and Qing Qing hanging out after school at the iconic dragon playground, where he shows her a notebook containing his sketches of her when they were young. That however is dwarfed by episodes that strain to inject humour, many of which consist of his two buddies – the overtly sissy-like Da Jie (Jeremy Chan) and the overly analytical Ray (Terence Then) – attempting to help Lin Yu win Qing Qing’s heart. One where they turn up below Qing Qing’s HDB block with spray cans so that Lin Yu can proclaim his love for her on the walls of the void deck goes nowhere, not even with Suhaimi Yusof turning up as a plainclothes policeman chasing after some other hooligans for vandalism and who ends up arresting Lin Yu too. Ditto the road trip which Qing Qing invites Lin Yu to go on with an over-achieving schoolmate Terence to Kuala Lumpur to watch Singapore play against Malaysia, not least because Lin Yu has no better sense than to follow his buddies’ advice to spite Qing Qing by inviting her female friend Wan Wen along.
But more tragic than the cringey over-acting and dull incidences that pass for humour is how tragedy is treated so carelessly throughout the movie. Early on, Lin Yu is horrified watching news of the Hotel New World collapse on TV, fearing that Qing Qing, who called him earlier in the day from a phone in the hotel lobby, was trapped and killed. Of course that is not true, for we would not have much of a movie otherwise would we? Even more unforgiveable is the sudden death of one of Lin Yu’s kin, which is exploited as the raison d’etre of his apparent change of attitude after that disastrous KL trip and for some barely developed father-son tension later on. And in utter disregard to those who have lost family members to unlicensed health products sold through MLM, the consequences of Lin Yu’s reckless business enterprise is appallingly diluted with humour, what with Maxi Lim’s MC King accusing him of landing his mother, then his father, mother, brother, sister and whole family in ICU after consuming his peddled drugs. There is no excuse for treating loss and death for laughs or narrative expediency, and ‘Lucky Boy’ is reprehensibly guilty on both counts.
Even if we overlook these missteps, ‘Lucky Boy’ is still a flawed movie. As a coming-of-age story intended to inspire how conviction and tenacity can change and even determine a person’s destiny over just luck or fate, it is hardly compelling enough, especially since the only way Lin Yu espouses that is how he refuses to let go of Qing Qing or settle for someone else. As a romance, it successfully sets up Lin Yu and Qing Qing as opposites who are meant for each other, but undermines that with moronic turns that make us want to give up on Lin Yu altogether at some point. Indeed, it’ll do better to pay attention to its own message at the end, i.e. that of staying true and following one’s heart come what may. Ultimately, ‘Lucky Boy’ doesn’t know where its heart wants to be – whether it is a story about Lin Yu, about Lin Yu’s love for Qing Qing or even about Lin Yu and Qing Qing at the same time (which also explains why at some points Qing Qing takes over as voiceover as if this were her story) – and despite a well-meaning moral therefore, is too distracted, unamusing and dull, neither of which the frequent doses of nostalgia can disguise or compensate for.
(Whether as a coming-of-age story of tenacity triumphing luck or as a romance about following your heart, ‘Lucky Boy’ has no luck either way, and even comes off callous in how it treats loss, death and tragedy)
Review by Gabriel Chong