FAGARA (花椒味道) (2019)

Genre: Drama
Director: Heiward Mak
Starring: Sammi Cheng, Megan Lai, Li Xiaofeng, Liu Juei Chi, Wu Yanshu, Richie Jen, Kenny Bee, Andy Lau
Runtime: 1 hr 58 mins
Rating: PG
Released By: Filmgarde
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 12 September 2019

Synopsis:  After her father died, a Hong Kong girl discovers she has two hitherto unknown sisters, one in Taiwan and one in China. To settle her father’s debt, she must reunite with them to run the family’s hot pot restaurant. While the androgynous Taiwan sister is plagued by her toxic relationship with her mother, the fashionista sister from China is trying to fend off her grandmother’s pressure to get married. Meanwhile, she is striving to unshackle herself from her ex-boyfriend in order to start a new relationship.

Movie Review:

We go to the cinema to be entertained, and every once in a while, a film that touches our souls comes along. This movie directed by Heiward Mak is one of those movies – a title that reminds you about what it means to be a human dealing with relationships and this little thing called life.

Mak, who penned the critically acclaimed Love in a Puff (2010) tries her hand at writing and directing a drama based on a novel by popular romance author Amy Cheung. We are introduced to a Hong Kongwoman (Sammi Cheng, trying her best to tone down her glam factor with a pair of glasses) who hasn’t been the most blessed person when it comes to love. When her estranged father (Kenny Bee) dies, two other women come into her life. One is from China (Li Xiaofeng), while the other is from Taiwan (Megan Lai). Both claim to be her half sisters and a heartfelt story about family ties unfolds.

The story has what it takes to be boringly predictable, melodramatic and uninspiring. However, thanks to Mak’s sure handed direction, it is a poignant take on the complexities of human relationships.

Cheng plays a travel agent who sees men bringing their mistresses on holidays. As the film progresses, we learn more about her views on the father figure who isn’t loyal to the family. Li portrays a trendy teenager who gets her ego boost on social media. Behind the flashy personality is a filial girl who has her grandmother’s interest at heart. Lai’s character is an androgynous snooker player who is vexed about how life is turning out for her. The love hate relationship with a mother who remarried to get stability in the family is a bittersweet one.

The three leading ladies are perfect in their roles, and we are sure there will be acting nominations during the award season (heck, this film is probably going to be a front runner with multiple recognitions). While the chemistry between the three of them is superb (it’s a joy whenever three of them share the screen), each of them also brings something relatable to the character they play. It’s as if you know someone like that in real life. You might even be the very person in the movie, facing similar dilemmas and challenges in life. Watching with how they deal with things on a big screen gives you assurance that there is much to embrace about life.

The supporting characters deliver fine performances as well. Bee, a familiar face in showbiz, lends weight to a character who may or may not have been the best father around. Wu Yanshu is lovely as an old lady who wants to marry her granddaughter off, and Liu Juei Chi’s screen presence makes her the perfect actress to play a mum who has problems relaying her love for her daughter. It is also nice to see Andy Lau and Richie Jen, who have co starred with Cheng in several romantic comedies, take on cameo roles in her past and current love interest.

It has been some time since we were this touched by a movie. This one produced by Ann Hui not only does that, but also boasts high production values (the cinematography is exceptionally exquisite). It is a fine Hong Kongproduction that is one of the best we’ve ever seen.

Movie Rating:

(The highly recommended film is a showcase of fine acting and superb production values. More importantly, it will make you embrace life and cherish relationships.)

Review by John Li

You might also like: