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The Miracle Box
Chinese: 天作之盒
Ada Choi and Tse Kwan-Ho
Year: 2004
Director: Adrian Kwan Shun-Fai
Producer: Andrew Yuen Man-Fai, Jessica Chan
Writer: Adrian Kwan Shun-Fai, Peter Tsi, Michelle Tsui Man-Lam
Cast: Ada Choi Siu-Fun, Tse Kwan-Ho, John Sham Kin-Fun, Wong Yuk-Man, Lee Yat-Sing, Lam Suet, Tse Yiu-Yeung, Samantha Lam Chi-Mei, Maria Cordero, Cheng Pei-Pei, Winston Yeh Ying-Wan, Nelson Cheung Hok-Yun, Isabel Chan Yat-Ning
The Skinny: The highest grossing Christian film ever, which isn't really a recommendation. This respectful portrait of late SARS doctor Joanna Tse features fine screen presence from its nominal stars and a well-meaning message. It also features a platitude-heavy script and not much onscreen drama. A likable film, but not really a good one.
by Kozo:

Respect can easily be given to The Miracle Box, a Christian-themed drama from Hong Kong-based Media Evangelism that which chronicles the life and times of doctor Joanna Tse, who was martyred by the outbreak of SARS in 2003. Her story is an inspirational one, promoting hope in the face of adversity, plus faith in the Big Man above. As portrayed by Ada Choi Siu-Fun, Joanna Tse was a angel-like doctor, putting her responsiblities and love above all else, and never giving up when the people around her probably did. It's a nice message, and director Adrian Kwan handles it with obvious loving respect. Too bad the movie itself really isn't much of a movie.

When we first meet Joanna Tse, she's on the cusp of fulfilling her dream: to study medicine in Australia. She's also in a difficult relationship with fellow doctor Albert Lau (Tse Kwan-Ho), which is difficult not because of any interpersonal issues (no, these two love each other so much that one expects flowers to bloom in frame), but because Albert has bone marrow cancer. Luckily, he's just recovered, and seems to have a clean bill of health. What follows is nearly one hour of hemming and hawing as the two recount their courtship (he was a doctor while she was an intern), and decide whether or not to take the plunge and make it official in a church. The outcome isn't in doubt, but the ensuing drama involving whether or not to buy an antique diamond ring is trite at best and annoyingly mushy at worse. At the very least, Tse Kwan-Ho and Ada Choi bring intelligence to their performances, but the drama itself belongs on a TV drama and not on the big screen.

Concurrent with the ongoing romance between the two never-disagreeing lovers are a few other important plotlines. Joanna must decide if she wants to go to Australia still, and Albert spends his time extolling the virtues of the "Miracle Box". The quite-literal deux ex machina of the film, the Miracle Box is a folded paper box give by Albert to nearly every character in the film, and is meant to be a conduit to the Lord. Basically, a troubled or sickly individual should put all their troubles and difficulties into the box and let God sort it all out for them. The Box is basically a message of hope given material paper form, and it's a winning enough device—once or twice. Ultimately, however, the film leans on the Miracle Box to a maddening degree, such that everyone who comes in contact with it begins to see and spread its message of hope. Yes, this is a Christian film, but it would be nice if "film" were the operative word and not "Christian".

More problems do crop up for the couple. Albert experiences a relapse of his cancer, and eventually the issue of SARS does come up. However, that doesn't happen until the last TEN MINUTES of the film, which does nothing for creating real drama. The choices and difficulties faced by Joanna Tse while dealing with the SARS-inflicted people of Hong Kong are never given anything more than a nominal thumbs up by the eternally perky doctor. Basically, she brings the same approach to the dark days of early 2003 as she did to her whole life: chin up, thumbs up, and a faith that God will sort it all out. Again, a fine message. But as drama, it's as interesting as reading Cliff's Notes.

Ultimately the best reason to watch The Miracle Box is simply if its subject matter speaks to you. The film delivers exactly what it advertises that it will: an inspirational portrait of a fine doctor, and a large commercial for hope via the Christian faith. With that in mind, The Miracle Box is an unqualified success, as it accomplishes both those goals handily. It also gives us better-than-average acting, and Ada Choi shows believable determination and sweet sincerity as Joanna Tse. If those factors are your key to a good movie, then The Miracle Box is for you. For those looking for an actual film that exists on the screen beyond the stipulated goals of its content, then you should look elsewhere. Not to lean too heavily on the SARS aspect of the Joanna Tse story, but if one were looking to find drama, it would seem that her experience with and subsequent death due to SARS would be all the drama you need. But the SARS angle is given only cursory attention, and is ultimately just a coda to a story of how one should find hope and faith even when things are bad. Well, it's all well and good to find hope and faith, and here's hoping that many people out there will do just that regardless of whether or not they see this film. But honestly, extolling hope and faith doesn't really make The Miracle Box a good movie. (Kozo 2004)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Winson Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Chinastar Entertainment Group Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen