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Just One Look

(from left to right) Charlene Choi, Wong Yau-Nam, Shawn Yue and Gillian Chung in Just One Look.
Chinese: 一碌蔗  
Year: 2002  
Director: Riley Yip Kam-Hung  
Producer: Cheung Shing-Sheung
Writer: Riley Yip Kam-Hung
Cast: Gillian Chung Yun-Tung, Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin, Shawn Yue, Wong Yau-Nam, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Lee Fung, Jo Koo, Andrea Choi On-Kiu, Eric Kot Man-Fai, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu, Lam Suet, Chapman To Chat-Man, Joe Cheung Tung-Cho
The Skinny: This coming-of-age film from Riley Yip features very little urgency, but the nostalgic atmosphere and agreeable emotions make this one of the most enjoyable Hong Kong films of the year. Featuring those Twins girls.
by Kozo:

Director Riley Yip recovers from the saccharine overload that was Lavender to deliver Just One Look, probably this year's most agreeable Hong Kong film. A rather simple coming-of-age story, it fuses fine Cheung Chau locations with a sweet tone and a generous love of Chinese cinema. It also downplays the fact that pop darlings Twins act in the film. Sure, their mugs are front and center on the advertising, and they can be heard on the soundtrack, but everything the girls do is in service to the film, and not once do we get to see a trademark pout or ingenue-type fit. It's all quite refreshing.

Shawn Yue stars as Fan, a Cheung Chau-born young man who spends his time selling sugar cane with his grandmother (Lee Fung) outside the local cinema. Years ago, his father (Sam Lee) reportedly shot himself in the restroom of the cinema, but Fan has suspected all along that is was local gangster Crazy (Anthony Wong) who pulled the trigger. In the ten years since, Fan has fueled his vendetta by secretly sniping Crazy with a slingshot, though he's too scared to confront him in person.

Fan's cohort in youthful mischief is buddy Fishball Ming (Wong Yau-Nam of boy band Shine). Ming leads their group of friends as they fight with local toughs and torture rats for fun. Both also take a shine to Nam (Charlene Choi, AKA: Twin #1), the daughter of a kung-fu teacher (Eric Kot). Fan and Ming join up at the school in order to get closer to Nam, whom Ming dubs "heroine". However, Fan finds himself attracted to a mysterious girl in white (Gillian Chung, AKA: Twin #2), who lives in a local convent. He resolves to write to her, but finds himself unable to find the words. Luckily, he can use the film synopses outside the cinema to compose his letters, which she receives willingly. Then...more stuff happens.

Recounting the plot of Just One Look doesn't really accomplish anything. The film doesn't have a stunning storyline or any real mounting tension, and consists mainly of rather pleasant and sometimes comic interludes. Among the film's world-beating moments are a growing romance between Crazy and his new girl (Jo Koo), Fishball Ming's bout with rabies, and the insurmountable tension of which girl Fan will choose: Twin #1 or Twin #2. All of this is set firmly in the land of coming-of-age films, which means lots of wishy-washy deliberation over events which — years later — will probably be thought upon with only a shake of the head or a sad smile. Nothing of truly heavy import occurs here.

However, what we do get is 100 minutes of pleasant nostalgia, fine locations, decent performances, and simply some of the most enjoyable moments out of Hong Kong Cinema this year. Riley Yip has gone out of his way to create a winning little film that mines the most recognizable of emotions, and even thrown in some Chinese Cinema love to boot. Much of Fan's experiences are reflected in the films he sees. Besides the obligatory film references from practically every character (watch for Crazy's impromptu "kung-fu" duels), we also get imagined sequences where Fan sees himself, his father, Crazy and others reenacting sequences from famous movies. The narrative device isn't new, but it's used here in a fun way, and never once comes off as cloying or inappropriate.

The performances also serve the film well. Though three of the primary characters belong in pop bands, very little artifice exists in their performances. Wong Yau-Nam, in particular, displays a fine range as Fishball Ming, and the Twins don't overshadow the films with their preeminent HK pop position. Rising star Shawn Yue carries the film effectively, and Anthony Wong turns in his usual exemplary support. Perhaps the only problem that occurs with the casting are the occasional cameos which only distract, though the final cameo works wonders within the confines of the film's world. As this is a film firmly rooted in the love of film, it only makes sense that a real Hong Kong movie star caps things off.

If any real complaint about Just One Look exists, it may be that it's too minor. This is a sweet little movie with no real urgency, and even the revelations that occur aren't really that revealing. The film doesn't even provide the requisite cinematic satisfaction, as the mega-mega happy ending is apparently not what Riley Yip cares about. Just One Look appears to be more interested in fleeting emotion and the bittersweet end of innocence. And, quite frankly, that's more than enough for me. (Kozo 2002)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Music Videos
  images courtesy of Universe Laser and Video Co., Ltd.
back to top Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen