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May We Chat
May We Chat

Heidi Lee and Rainky Wai sans smartphones in May We Chat.
Chinese: 微交少女  
Year: 2013
Director: Philip Yung Chi-Kwong
Producer: Ng Kin-Hung
Writer: Philip Yung Chi-Kwong, Lou Shiu-Wa

Heidi Li Jing-Yi, Rainky Wai, Kabby Hui, Irene Wan Pik-Ha, Peter Mak Tak-Woh, Dominic Ho Hou-Man, Wong Hin-Chung, Mak Ling-Ling, Carol Yeung Tsz-Yiu, Pauline Suen Kai-Kwan, Chan Lai-Wun, Derek Kwok Chi-Kin, Fung Chih-Chiang, Jessey Tsang Tsui-Shan, Calvin Poon Yuen-Leung, JJ Jia

The Skinny:

The wayward youth formula gets an update for the text-messaging generation, with watchable but unremarkable results. May We Chat ably represents its tried-and-true formula but doesn't use its modern trappings to say anything beyond what we already know. Possesses an odd connection to the 1982 film Lonely Fifteen.

by Kozo:

The familiar teen-girls-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks formula gets updated in May We Chat, from Glamorous Youth director and Rigor Mortis screenwriter Philip Yung. The story of teenagers dealing in prostitution, drug dealing and general aimlessness, May We Chat shows off its modernity not just through up-to-date fashion and lingo, but also through the use of actual chat service WeChat, which – besides offering instant text messaging – allows people to locate nearby contacts and also participate in anonymous chats with unknown new “friends”. This is questionably appropriate product placement (WeChat: An accessory to delinquent youth!), but the omnipresent use of mobile phones and apps provides a great opportunity to explore the isolation and depersonalization found in our ironically more-connected-than-ever Social Age. There’s fertile territory here and May We Chat seems poised to cover it.

However, the film doesn’t really break new ground, and ultimately delivers only familiar melodrama. May We Chat centers on three teen girls connected via a WeChat group, where they frequently converse despite never having met. Wai-Wai (Heidi Li of girl group Super Girls) lives with her younger sister and strung out mother, while skipping school and making ends meet via small jobs. Mute, pink wig-wearing Ying (Rainky Wai) lives with her grandmother (Chan Lai-Wun) and engages in compensated dating arranged using her mobile phone and WeChat app. Finally, affluent Yan (Kabby Hui) suffers romantic issues and a lousy family life, as she’s required to live separately from her mother (Irene Wan) and cold stepfather (Calvin Poon). Life is obviously not a box of chocolates for these three.

The story kicks into a higher gear when Yan goes missing, and Wai-Wai and Ying decide to seek her out after not hearing from her on WeChat. Their search takes them into dark and increasingly dangerous situations, with missing drugs, triads, sexual assault and more figuring in. Storytelling in May We Chat is occasionally hard to follow, as the film jumps around in time frequently, but the time shifts keep the story moving consistently, plus they obscure some of the film’s bigger issues – like why these two girls are the ones searching for the missing Yan. Is this a commentary on her lack of real-life friends, or a referendum on the presumed shallowness of Web 2.0 connections? Who knows? Philip Yung doesn’t really explore the modern trappings of his age-old tale, making May We Chat only a superficial update of the wayward youth formula.

Breaking up the familiar story are visceral moments, some featuring surprising nudity and violence. May We Chat handily earns its Category III rating with somewhat exploitative but still relevant content. The events don’t exactly build to a crescendo, however. Key moments are found more in flashback than in the present narrative robbing the film of some tension. The music doesn’t help; the score consists of treacly piano, tense drums and some oddly playful arrangements that prove manipulative rather than complementary. The total mixture makes for a solid enough entry in the genre, and the film is certainly watchable. However, the issues and themes it purports to explore are only depicted and not really commented upon. Despite being about so much, May We Chat ultimately says very little.

One obvious theme is that disaffected youth and their risky adventures are a cyclical thing – an idea supported by flashbacks to grainy footage from 1982 youth saga Lonely Fifteen. That film featured Irene Wan as a troubled teen, as well as a young Peter Mak, who makes an appearance in May We Chat as a pathetic aged triad. The two films aren’t really linked (the fates of Mak and Wan’s Lonely Fifteen characters prevent that), making the connection little more than a self-referential postmodern wink. The film does showcase new talents. Of the three lead girls, Heidi Li is perhaps the most promising, while Rainky Wai and Kabby Hui perform in a more daring fashion. Ultimately, May We Chat doesn’t live up to its potential. Philip Yung assembles his rebellious youth clichés and iconography to competent but unremarkable effect, though the effort should be lauded. Even when the result underwhelms, Hong Kong needs stories like May We Chat to be told. (Kozo, Reviewed at the Udine Far East Film Festival, 4/2013)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Panorama (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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