Mercury Cinema, Sat 3 Oct
Made in 1991, this film is very clunky and predictable. Sadly, the subtitle translations were so bad that it was often hard to know what they meant. At times, viewers were talking aloud in the cinema trying to understand the distorted English or giggling at the absurdity of the translation.
The story revolves around retired teacher Mr. Ku (played nicely by well-seasoned actor Wu Ma) who lives a rather uninteresting and very modest life in Shanghai. His twelve-year-old grandson, Ming, is sent to stay with him after living in America for ten years. Ming, known as Tommy in America, is spoiled and westernised and pretends he can only speak English, making it impossible to communicate with his grandfather. Yes, you can guess the rest of the story.
Of course, the boy behaves like an indulged brat and of course, Grandpa indulges him further until they fight and Grandpa slaps Ming (or slams him, according to the subtitles). Ming runs away, gets into trouble, repents and apologises. Cliché after cliché. In the last quarter of the film, the scenes between the repentant boy and his grandfather were lovely and quite touching, but this film takes way too long to tell too little, and is heavy-handed and plodding.
Huang Kun-Husen as Ming over-acts for the first half of the film and in some scenes, lines were so repetitious it was hard to imagine there was a script.
Mr. Ku’s niece, played by Carina Lau, brought some welcome subtlety to the film and the community of people living in Mr Ku’s apartment block provided a family of neighbours.
I think this was an unfortunate choice for Ann Hui’s retrospective. Having seen two of her amazing films during this OzAsia Film Festival – one much older than this but stunning, despite its age – it’s hard to know what went wrong here.