This film from Peter Chan is a perfect demonstration of the
notion that Hong Kong Film is a cinema of moments. His fantasy/comedy/drama
is both touching and alienating, and only works some of the
Usual leading lady Anita Yuen dons
[unconvincing] old woman makeup to play an elderly woman struggling
with her mess of a family. Alan Tam is her eldest son, a mama’s
boy who desperately wants to cut the strings, and has plans
to emigrate to the U.S. - without mom. Her eldest daughter
(Teresa Carpio) has multiple kids from multiple fathers and
she’s come home to annoy everyone with her brassy personality.
Finally, her youngest son is a shy, seemingly slow fellow
played by Jordan Chan.
Anita runs into Death (appearing
in the form of a kindly decked-in-white Roy Chiao), who informs
her that her time is up. She pleads for more time to realize
the happiness that she seems to have missed. It seems she
bartered ten years of her life away when she was a young mother
and Alan was near death with a vicious fever. Her prayers
were answered but she’s supposed to check out ten years sooner
than normal. Nevertheless, he gives her a short time to put
her affairs in order.
The fact that Death lets her slide
bespeaks implications that are never fully realized. Furthermore,
Anita gains strange powers after meeting Death, leading to
lots of fantasy/magical weirdness that adds to the odd flavor
of the film. A lot of the film is touching, but at the same
time there are so many emotional crescendos that you’ve got
to wonder when it’s all going to stop. The script is incredibly
creative yet also so conscious of itself that getting lost
in its magic may be difficult.
Acting-wise, the cast does a credible
job, especially Anita Yuen, who proves her range once again.
The final scene between her and Alan Tam is especially good,
and when she appears as a young mother she’s utterly convincing.
Sadly, the child actors are distractingly poor. Peter Chan
is a strong director of actors, and he wrings the most from
his cast (just not the kids). Ultimately, the film comes off
as overstuffed and inconsistent, which means that you have
to wade through the bad stuff to get to the good stuff. There is magic in there, but you have to find it. (Kozo