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Like a Dream
Like a Dream

Yolanda Yuan and Daniel Wu in Like a Dream.
  Chinese: 如梦
Year: 2009  
Director: Clara Law Cheuk-Yiu  
  Producer: Peggy Chiao, Eddie Fong Ching-Ling
  Writer: Clara Law Cheuk-Yiu, Eddie Fong Ching-Ling

Daniel Wu, Yolanda Yuan

  The Skinny:

Clara Law's Like a Dream is well-made and occasionally enchanting before it ultimately falls to pieces - both literally and figuratively. Leads Daniel Wu and Yolanda Yuan turn in fine work, and the dreamlike atmosphere may still be enough to seduce the art-appointed filmgoer. An admirable if not entirely successful effort.

by Kozo:

Filmmaker Clara Law makes a belated return to Asian film with Like a Dream, a metaphysical drama that achieves some measure of poetry before literally breaking to pieces. Daniel Wu co-produces and also stars as Max, a computer engineer whose dreams start intruding dangerously on his waking life. Max is kind of a schlub and Wu nails his dorky mannerisms straight out of the gate, believably creating an awkward guy whose small personal obsessions disturb him and also maybe the people around him. Max's dreams are his current obsession; each evening he sees himself in an empty city, where he chaperones a white-clad young woman (Yolanda Yuan) grieving the loss of a former boyfriend.

Max’s dreams have an adverse affect on his office demeanor, so his colleagues send him on a forced vacation to Shanghai where he somehow ends up with a roll of photos of the mystery woman, who apparently exists in real life. Intrigued and more than a little unhinged, he returns again and again to China, finally finding a sassy country girl (also Yuan) who looks exactly like his dream girl. But she's not the same person, and soon the two embark on a strange little journey, wandering the city in search of Max’s elusive dream girl. Inklings of romance blossom between Max and his dream girl’s doppelganger, but neither can really take a step forward with the identity of the mystery girl still hanging over them. Does she even exist? And if so, why are her dreams crisscrossing with Max’s?

Eddie Fong and Clara Law’s screenplay touches upon a number of enjoyable themes – urban alienation, identity, life, death and belonging – but the whole is somewhat difficult to pin down. That won’t necessarily reduce the enjoyment for art-friendly audiences; the screenplay, Yee Chung-Man’s elegant art direction and Law’s composed direction give Like a Dream an attractive, pop-existential appeal, much like a Haruki Murakami short story brought to life. Small touches of humor, including Max’s odd relationship with his mother’s dead cat, add a blackly comic edge to the dreamlike proceedings, and the actors both turn in fine work. The navel-gazing dialogue can be a bit much, but at a key point, both Wu and Yuan are given monologues that leave audiences hanging on their every word. Physically, their performances are pitch-perfect ones, with one tentative embrace between the two paying off very well.

Unfortunately, Law and Fong take pains to explain their metaphysical storyline, and that’s when the film falls precipitously off a cliff. Things seem resolved, but then the dream girl, her overwhelming sadness, and her dreamwalking ability all return to the fore, sending Like a Dream towards a climax that feels more like a perfume or timepiece commercial than a lyrical meeting of two damaged souls. Add in some random utterings about the “corruption” present in waking life, and you have a film that says way more than it really has to. Like a Dream has the ability to enchant and provoke, but it strays when it tries to assign actual meaning to its fantastic devices. As a 2-hour metaphysical mystery, the film still possesses enough pull to draw audiences in. The results, however, are questionably coherent, much less successful. It tries admirably, but Like a Dream is ultimately just like one - fleeting, briefly seductive, and then finally forgotten. (Kozo, reviewed at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, 2010)

  Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Kam & Ronson
Region 3 NTSC
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese subtitles
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image credit: Hong Kong International Film Festival Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen