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Embrace Your Shadow

Fiona Sit and Dylan Guo star in Embrace Your Shadow
Chinese: 摯愛
Year: 2005
Director: Joe Ma Wai-Ho
Cast: Fiona Sit Hoi-Kei, Dylan Guo, Cheung Kwok-Keung, Chung Ching-Yu, Samuel Pang King-Chi
  The Skinny: Good intentions can't save this frightfully average drama from director Joe Ma. Probably a must for fans of Fiona Sit or Dylan Guo, but everyone else should see 2 Young, Funeral March, or a doctor instead.
by Kozo:

Effective direction and decent leads can't lift Embrace Your Shadow, a frightfully average romantic drama from director Joe Ma. The Love Undercover auteur's second stab at drama, Embrace Your Shadow recycles old themes and plot devices to tell a tale of love on the wrong side of the tracks. Taiwan TV star Dylan Guo is Juchin, a petty thief who loses his head when he meets the pretty, but dour Ran (Fiona Sit).

Juchin enters Ran's life when Shiayou (Chung Ching-Yu), her six year-old niece goes missing; Juchin bumps into Shiayou after pulling a job and tries to bribe her into silence with a digital movie camera. The girl just wants to go home, so Juchin takes her home, whereupon he meets Ran, her paralyzed older brother Feng (Cheung Kwok-Keung), and discovers their unique troubles. Feng has a rare hereditary blood disease that caused his paralysis, and Ran could be in line for a similar fate. Juchin is instantly sold, smitten, or suckered - soon he's hanging with the family, taking them to barbeques, and using his thievery to fund a possible operation for Ran. Predictably, love and even more problems blossom.

Joe Ma's first drama was Funeral March in 2001, and Embrace Your Shadow shares the same opaque directorial style as Ma's previous effort. Unlike Ma's usual youth comedies, the characters of Embrace Your Shadow do not reveal themselves with witty existentialism or long-winded exposition. Ma instead uses action and situation to reveal his characters, and the change in style is welcome. The film's script is spare and features less soul-baring exposition than your usual Hong Kong film. While that's not really saying a lot (Hong Kong movies are known for their egregious exposition), the patience displayed here is refreshing.

Unfortunately, the story of Embrace Your Shadow is largely generic, and given to predictable dramatic devices seen before in many other films. The characters themselves possess standard melodrama issues, and some are not fleshed out enough to warrant the weight given to them. Chief among these is the character of Fu (Samuel Pang), an evil triad with a largely unexplained distaste for Juchin. The existence of Fu does allow for the film's climax, but by that time the outcome has been all but announced. If you've seen any films with a lovelorn guy trying to escape the clutches of an evil triad, you'll know how Embrace Your Shadow ends.

Even more, the film is perhaps too low key. The romance between Sit and Kuo is given a warm, simmering build-up via initial antagonism, followed by sidelong smiles, and finally outright acceptance. But their love takes a backseat to a bunch of other subplots, including the evil triad nuisances, and those involving Feng, who has issues with his ex-wife. The sequences do bring out some potent drama, and do support the film's theme of unselfish love. But if the romance between Dylan Guo and Fiona Sit isn't that compelling, what reason is there really to watch?

The film does have its minor positives. Fiona Sit possesses a range unseen in most Hong Kong actresses of similar age, and Dylan Guo is handsome, if not a bit blank. Most of the cast is effective in a low-key manner (except Pang, who seems to be aping Francis Ng's more undisciplined performances), and Ma manages a few defly directed sequences. Fans of the stars will likely find much to like in the generous screen time given to their favorite idols. Still, everything that's been done in Embrace Your Shadow has been done before, and usually much better. (Kozo 2005)



DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese subtitles

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen