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Echoes of the Rainbow
Echoes of the Rainbow     Echoes of the Rainbow

(left) Aarif Lee and Evelyn Choi, and (right) Simon Yam and Sandra Ng in Echoes of the Rainbow.
Chinese: 歲月神偷
Year: 2009
Director: Alex Law Kai-Yu
Producer: Candy Leung Fung-Ying, Mabel Cheung Yuen-Ting
Writer: Alex Law Kai-Yu
Cast: Simon Yam Tat-Wah, Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu, Buzz Chung Shiu-Tiu, Aarif Lee, Paul Chun Pui, Evelyn Choi Wing-Yan, Ha Ping, Alfred Cheung Kin-Ting, Joe Cheung Tung-Cho,Ann Hui On-Wah, Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu, Amy Chum (Tam Yan-Mei), Clifton Ko Chi-Sum, Lawrence Lau Kwok-Cheung, John Clinton Wakefield, Tina Lau Tin-Lau
  The Skinny: Alex Law's Echoes of the Rainbow covers familiar ground, with some potential flaws seeming rather glaring. Taken at face value, however, this is an engaging and well-made film with an earned sentimentality. Audiences anywhere should be able to enjoy its universal themes and emotions.
by Kozo:

Maybe life is made up of clichés. That's one possible, albeit cynical way to look at Echoes of the Rainbow, the nostalgic drama from filmmaking team Alex Law and Mabel Cheung. Based on Law's own personal experiences, Echoes of the Rainbow looks like it's filled with overused screenwriter shorthand, with both coming-of-age themes and a terminal illness featured in its screenplay. Also, the film sometimes sidesteps tougher issues, looking past its turbulent historical setting and any potential commentary in favor of safe and predictable emotions. However, despite those potential flaws, the film effectively sells its sentimentality, and the actors are strong and believable. Lives won't change, but Echoes of the Rainbow's nostalgic look back proves compelling and watchable. It helps if you're familiar with Hong Kong history and culture, though the film's universal themes should prove enough for less initiated audiences.

Law's screen stand-in is Big Ears (Buzz Chung), a naughty youngster who dreams of being an astronaut and of eating a whole order of double-yolk mooncakes. When not running around with a glass bubble on his head, Big Ears engages innocently in petty theft and fraud in hopes of funding his mooncake binge. He also narrates the continuing saga of his parents Mr. and Mrs. Law (Simon Yam and Sandra Ng), who run a shoe store on a small neighborhood street in Shamsuipo, with much of their earnings going towards their sons' school fees. Mr. Law's brother (Paul Chun) is a barber on that same street, while Grandma (Ha Ping) also lives nearby, dispensing pearls of wisdom while waiting for her inevitable passing. Big Ears' brother Desmond (Aarif Lee) strives to excel at school, while also pursuing his first love, a pretty girl named Flora (Evelyn Choi). Big Ears looks on attentively, but full comprehension may not exist for the bad little boy. At first, anyway.

When does Big Ears get it? True to life, it's not one single incident that gets Big Ears turned around. Instead it’s the whole shebang – his parents' struggles with money, his brother's difficulties with first love, the cruel forces of nature, the indifference of fate - that effect change on Big Ears and his family. The late sixties are a tough time for the Laws, with their business floundering due to unstable sales and corrupt policemen shaking down their shoe store for protection money. Furthermore, their small store has a hard time with things like typhoons, and Mr. Law eventually gets frustrated with his sons’ growing pains. Meanwhile, Desmond's budding romance with Flora takes a tough turn. Desmond decides one day to visit the sick Flora and - if you know your Hong Kong geography - his walk to her house tells you long in advance what to expect. Basically, she's not crammed into a shoestore with all her family members - and that's just the beginning of Desmond and the Laws' difficulties.

Being familiar with Hong Kong – its history, geography and culture – helps to get all of Echoes of a Rainbow. Some incidents and events, e.g. the leftist unrest of the late sixties, are only dealt with in passing – an acceptable handling since such facts would likely be glossed over by a young narrator like Big Ears. However, knowing the time period adds color and depth to Alex Law’s rose-colored portrait of his youth, with even the smallest details of life on his old Shamsuipo street (doubled using a location in Central) likely to please initiated locals. The actors help tremendously. Both Simon Yam and Sandra Ng are exceedingly good - if either won Hong Kong Film Awards for their work, there should be no objection – and young Aarif Lee has a very handsome, sympathetic presence. The actors and the film’s context help bridge the drama from clichéd to effective. Echoes of a Rainbow may not do anything new, but it gets an earned pass for treading familiar ground.

It’s been awhile since Hong Kong has released a film that speaks to so strongly to local audiences, and the result has been very strong box office. Still, despite being popular with locals, the film has come under fire from cultural critics for essentially sidestepping the potent political issues of the time. There's some credence to those criticisms, but it seems in creating Echoes of a Rainbow, Law deliberately chose to subjugate those ideas in favor of simple themes of family, hope and perseverance. That's a legitimate way to tell this story, and Law does it well enough that giving him applause feels perfectly fine. Also, those universal ideas should help the film play to audiences internationally. Young love, unexpected tragedy, family struggles, growing up – this is stuff people of all cultures can identify with, and seeing them played out in Hong Kong does little to lessen their impact. Echoes of a Rainbow is a melodrama for general audiences - simple, sentimental and sincere. To reduce it for not meeting all expectations would only be cynical. (Kozo 2010)



Region 0 NTSC
Tai Seng Home Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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