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Truth or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat
|     review    |     notes     |     awards     |     availability     |

(from left to right) Candy Lo, Roy Chow, Patrick Tang, Lawrence Chou,
Sammy and Karena Lam are inhabitants of the 6th Floor Rear Flat.
Chinese: 六樓后座  
Year: 2003  
Director: Barbara Wong Chun-Chun  

Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui, Arthur Wong Ngok-Tai


Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui, Cheung Fan, Barbara Wong Chun-Chun


Karena Lam Ka-Yan, Candy Lo Hau-Yam, Roy Chow Wing-Hung, Lawrence Chou Chun-Wai, Sammy, Patrick Tang Kin-Won, William So Wing-Hong, Edwin Siu Jing-Nam, Juno Mak Chun-Lung, Teresa Carpio, Law Koon-Lan, Candy Hau Woon-Ling, Carlo Ng Ka-Lok, Siu Yee, Angela Au, Gloria Chan, Helena Ma, Candice Chan Si-Wai, Siu Yam-Yam, Barbara Wong Chun-Chun, Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui (voice only), Richie Ren

The Skinny: This youth comedy-drama from documentary filmmaker Barbara Wong is an assuredly-directed pleasure that's funny and even touching without being too maudlin or overly-manipulative. This isn't a world-beating movie, but it's a fine counter to Hong Kong's usual overdone popstar youth dramas.
by Kozo:

Truth or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat is a film that could have starred a lot of big-name popstars. A thinly-disguised metaphorical tale of urban HK youth, Truth or Dare has existential dilemmas, unrequited loves, career anxiety, and more than enough room for over-the-top popstar mugging. In the hands of a director like Joe Ma, the film could have had a candy-colored production design and fast-motion wackiness to spare—but Truth or Dare does not. The film eschews saccharine melodrama and Cantopop excess for a quality that could best be described as actual filmmaking. This isn't a diss on Ma's Feel 100% films (which are largely good despite their silliness), but it's about time that an HK youth comedy featured more buzz than bombast, and more wit than wackiness. Truth or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat is such a film.

The 6th Floor Rear Flat portion of the title refers to an actual flat that's the cheap-living solution for six vividly different HK youngsters. Karena (Karena Lam, who continues to impress with her emotional range) is a budding writer who finds her muse in her editor Jason, who she only knows through their phone conversations. Despite the fact that he could be hideous-looking or a cult member, she falls in love with him. Candy (Candy Lo) is a fortune-teller who uses tarot cards to ply her daily trade. She pines for love, and finds herself between two eligible beat cops (William So and Edwin Siu) who are also partners. Wing (Lawrence Chou) wants to pursue his dream of music, but his parents want him to give up and go back to medical school in the US. Jean (Patrick Tang) wants to make money—fast. Bo (Sammy) is a go-nowhere actor who professes to be gay but is still smarting over being dumped by his first love. And Leo (Roy Chow) is the student of the group, who seems to be the most together, but holds an obvious torch for Karena.

Though they all should be figuring out their long-term gameplan, the pals spend their time holding "Truth or Dare" parties in their flat and obsessing over their personal issues. It's at one of these parties that the ultimate dare is placed: each of the residents must achieve something daring or grand within a year or be required to, uh, ingest feces. As crazy youth are likely to do, they agree and seal their personal goals in empty bottles to be evaluated one year later. What follows is your standard year of Feel 100% issues, as each pursues their personal goals and finds room to grow, change and/or find their way in the world. They all achieve those goals, thus saving themselves from the humiliation of eating human waste, and they all live happily ever after. Cue mega-mega happy ending.

Well, not really. It would be incredibly false to allow each and every character the opportunity to grow and change over the course of 100 minutes, just as it would be false to actually have them realize their success and/or failure as some sort of cinematic ephiphany. Growth is a natural process, and the characters experience it just that way: naturally. Though the year is fraught with opportunities for wackiness, mugging, and hijinks of your usual Hong Kong variety, those things never seem to happen. The characters muddle through in a relatively light, easygoing fashion, letting their lives happen while trying to justify what they're doing on a day-to-day basis. The result: a somewhat contrived and obvious youth film premise that actually comes off as real and even gratefully earned. Lessons are learned and conflicts are met, but the results are not hackneyed summarized pearls of wisdom. It almost feels—and here's that word again—natural.

Truth or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat was brought to us by primarily two people: producer/writer Lawrence Cheng and director Barbara Wong. Cheng is probably better known for his fey characters from such films as Tom, Dick and Hairy and Inspector Pink Dragon, but his pedigree of annoying performances belies the thought that went into Truth or Dare. While possessing of some overt devices (voiceover!), and a rather loose narrative (where is this all going?), Truth or Dare actually possesses far more subtlety than one would believe. This is probably due to Barbara Wong's direction, which is remarkably controlled and measured, and actually seems to employ some sense of technique. Instead of milking scenes for punchlines or payoffs, Wong concentrates on dialogue and performance. The actors are usually kept in check, and even the more outgoing performances (Patrick Tang can be gratingly energetic, and Candy Lo does her share of mugging) feel like real personalities and not your standard "Wah!" style of Cantonese comedy acting. Unnecessary music and style is thrown out the window, and character and situation rule the day. It's almost like someone went to film school.

Not that the film is devoid of fun moments. Some wackiness does exist (Candy imagines her two suitors as Nameless and Broken Sword in a parody of Hero), but it's remarkably tied to character. Though Candy may be given to flights of fancy (she actually has three fantasy sequences), other characters like Karena, Leo or Wing do not. The film never seems to betray its characters emotions or personalities, such that even the more hackneyed moments manage some affecting reality. Songstress Teresa Carpio has a fine cameo as Wing's mother, and though her big scene feels more than a little manufactured, the characters' reactions do not. The film's respect of its characters earns the occasional contrived moment, and even makes up for the inevitable narrative tying up of loose ends. Some of the situations reach their expected climaxes, but the film still manages to affect.

Still, not everything is tied up. Though Truth or Dare features many familiar situations, the film seems to be more about being young than issues of youth. The eponymous flat has a rather obvious metaphorical meaning, and when everything is stripped away it seems that whatever happened needed to happen—simply for the sake of experience. No real answers are provided and no stunning pearls of wisdom (like "be true to yourself" or "friendship rules!") are dispensed. The journey made here isn't much more than a minor step forward in the lives of these characters, and not the life-changing epiphanies that most youth dramedies are given to. Also, the loose narrative may not cohere for some, and the film is hardly new as nearly everything in its genre has been done before. But the film still finds room to surprise and entertain, a rarity among films of its type. Truth or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat isn't new or evolutionary, but it is genuinely funny and affecting without being overbearing. The film's refreshing natural style, well-drawn characters, and ultimate acceptance of its own inconsequence make it an unusual and welcome antidote to the usual cheesy youth dramedies that Hong Kong produces. Joe Ma, are you paying attention? (Kozo 2003)

Notes: • Director Barbara Wong has a cameo as Karena Lam's agent. She was previously nominated for a Best New Performer Hong Kong Film Award for her role in the The Runaway Pistol.
Truth or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat marks the acting debut of Juno Mak, a maligned pop singer who reportedly gained popularity through good connections and the rumored renting of fans. While prominently featured on both the film's poster and DVD cover, Mak plays a character of absolutely no importance, and barely musters a minute of actual screen time.
Awards: 23rd Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
• Nomination - Best Supporting Actress (Candy Lo Hau-Yam)
• Nomination - Best New Artist (Edwin Siu Jing-Nam)
• Nomination - Best New Director (Barbara Wong Chun-Chun)
40th Annual Golden Horse Awards

• Nomination - Best Supporting Actress (Candy Lo Hau-Yam)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
2-Disc Set
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English Subtitles
Trailers, Outtakes, Various Extras

image courtesy of Universe Laser and Video Co., Ltd. Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen