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20 : 30 : 40
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From left to right: Angelica Lee, Rene Liu, Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Sylvia Chang in 20 30 40.
  AKA: Twenty Thirty Forty  
Chinese: 20:30:40  
  Year: 2004  
  Director: Sylvia Chang  
  Producer: Chen Kuo-Fu  
  Writer: Sylvia Chang, Rene Liu, Angelica Lee Sum-Kit, GC Goo Bi, Cat Kwan
  Cast: Sylvia Chang, Rene Liu, Angelica Lee Sum-Kit, Kate Yeung, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Richie Ren
The Skinny: Sylvia Chang's trio of stories depicting the lives of women of various ages is a fine showcase for its actresses, but the stories vary in quality, and the film itself is somewhat of an uneven experience. Still, there are plenty of good moments in 20 : 30 : 40 to easily warrant a recommendation. And again, the actresses are great.
by Kozo:

The lives of three disparate modern women get a refreshing once-over in 20 : 30 : 40, a romantic-drama-comedy from director Sylvia Chang. Angelica Lee, Rene Liu, and Sylvia Chang portray the three women of the respective ages twentysomething, thirtysomething, and fortysomething, and each had a hand in penning their character's story too. The conflicts vary, but touch on very basic, common themes, i.e. identity, belonging, the quest for companionship, and simply getting by in the mixed-up modern world. All told, this looks like a film meant to dig deep into an all-encompassing truth about being female—or something to that effect. It's hard to say that the film really succeeds at that, as it's too uneven and sometimes cursory to register as anything truly revealing. However, the storytelling is refreshingly honest, and the actresses imbue their characters with charming, substantial life. 20 : 30 : 40 won't change any lives, but it's an engaging film with plenty to offer.

Angelica Lee AKA Lee Sin-Jie AKA Sinjie is Xiao Jie, a twentysomething Malaysian girl who journeys to Taiwan with the promise of becoming a possible idol singer. She's paired with Hong Kong girl Tong Yi (Kate Yeung) by producer-songwriter Shi Ge (Anthony Wong looking like Jason Mewes of Jay and Silent Bob fame) with the hope that they'll be a twin sister pop duo, but the going is tough. Meanwhile, the girls become fast friends, but their interaction carries with it possible romantic implications. Thirtysomething year-old flight attendant Xiang (Rene Liu) has her own romantic issues: liasons with both a married dentist and a possessive music producer. Xiang keeps both men on strings, neither committing to nor fully cutting ties with either. Finally, Lily (Sylvia Chang) is the fortysomething married owner of a florist shop. However, when subbing for irresponsible employees, she makes a floral delivery and discovers that her husband has a second family! Driven to divorce, she heads back into the singles scene in a bold, and somewhat comic fashion.

The women never meet in 20 : 30: 40, though their paths do cross on occasion. Xiang's flight attendant co-worker dates Jeff (Tony Leung Ka-Fai), who eventually meets up with Lily, who was her former classmate. Lily views Jeff as a possible romantic interest post-divorce, but her trials with him have more to do with getting her life in order than finding a new man. Lily also has lunch right next to Shi Ge, who can't seem to get Tong Yi and Xiao Jie's career rollling. Xiao Jie walks by Lily's shop, and for the briefest of moments, the two women exchange glances. Xiang changes residences to escape from her go-nowhere social existence, and moves right down the street from Lily's shop. All the while, the women press on with their current crises, each finding some measure of success or failure within their lives. Never do they sit down and talk about their problems ala "Sex and the City", nor do they ever reach underlined, pronounced ephiphanies on life's meaning and their eventual destinies. At the end of the two hour mark, the women have closed some chapters, and opened others. Life goes on, be it bittersweetly or with firm, positive finality. It's just like life, or some well-played facismile of it.

20 : 30 : 40 doesn't have a very strong narrative, which is to be expected from a film with three separate stories and no particular driving force. Basically, this film is a sensitive look at the trials of women at different stages in life, and that's exactly what it is: a look. The stories themselves don't reach find much new ground on which to tread, and sometimes seem somewhat tired. Xiao Jie's experiences with sexuality are only touched upon, though Anjelica Lee and Kate Yeung bring youthful exuberance and believable emotion to their characters. Furthermore, the entire point of her thread seems to be summed up in a too-easy connection between the characters around her. Still, the two actresses bring winning personalities and naked emotions to their characters (Lee continues to impress, and Yeung builds upon the promise she showed in Demi-Haunted), which is enough to keep them engaging. The problem is we don't spend nearly enough time with them.

The same thing could be said about the other two storylines, though they're both better handled than Xiao Jie's. Rene Liu's Xiang struggles to find stability, while at the same time realizing that's what she wants. On a more minor level, she confronts old dreams, and questions her personal desires. Her struggles are nothing new for cinema, but their mundanity is perfectly suited for the film's omnibus format, and Liu gives a honest, emotionally sound performance that's always believable. By contrast, Sylvia Chang's portion of the film has more over-the-top situations, and is given to surprising, even bawdy comedy. There are also some narrative devices that feel somewhat contrived (Lily's friendship with a comatose woman is a bit cloying), and Chang's performance is a bit more showy than subtle. At the same time, her emotional journey feels honest, and the way it ends is both surprisingly humorous and heartwarming. Chang gives a somewhat daring performance (for a Hong Kong actress anyway), and her portions of the film earn by far the biggest laughs.

The mixture of loose laughs and poignant pathos ultimately renders 20 : 30 : 40 as somewhat of an uneven film. Without a defining thread among the three stories, the film eventually stumbles towards its end, accomplishing little other than a brief glimpse at three changing lives. Still, that glimpse is a very worthy one, and speaks to a refreshing honesty of character that pushes the film past the "woman's film" label. 20 : 30 : 40 may seem like a woman weepie designed to expound on the trials of womanhood, but the stories and actors seem to be creating characters more than attempting any profound truth. Despite the sometimes mundane and even contrived situations present, there's plenty of character to keep anyone who cares about such things occupied. 20 : 30 : 40 basically asks us to give up two hours to get to know three different, but engaging women and the little trials that make up a small portion of their lives. Nothing earth-shattering really happens (except an earthquake at the beginning of the film), but when the film's over, it feels like time well spent. (Kozo 2004).

Awards: 24th Hong Kong Film Awards
• Nomination - Best Actress (Sylvia Chang)
• Nomination - Best Supporting Actress (Kate Yeung)
41st Golden Horse Awards
• Nomination - Best Supporting Actress (Angelica Lee Sum-Kit)
• Nomination - Best Supporting Actress (Kate Yeung)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Removable English, Thai, Korean and Chinese Subtitles
images courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen