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The Unusual Youth
Chinese: 非常青春期
Yan Ng and Race Wong
Year: 2005
Director: Dennis S.Y. Law
Producer: Herman Yau Lai-To, Dennis S.Y. Law
Writer: Dennis S.Y. Law
Cast: Marco Lok Lik-Wai, Race Wong Yuen-Ling, Yan Ng Yat-Yin, Raymond Wong Ho-Yin, Sammy, Siu Yee, Law Lan, Ronnie Cheung Ho-Lung, Yeung Ka-Shing, Kris Gu Yu, Lam Suet, Johnny Chen (Lu Sze-Ming), Li Ting-Fung, Eddie Cheung Siu-Fai, Lee Fung, Bonnie Wong Man-Wai, Simon Yam Tat-Wah, Sarika Choy
The Skinny: Despite the low-wattage cast and odd filmmaking choices, The Unusual Youth is not as bad as one expects it to be. Of course, expectations being what they are, that may not mean much.
by Kozo:

Feel close to 67% with The Unusual Youth, an offbeat youth "dramedy" from Dennis Law, a former property developer who finally made his own film. In achieving his dream and putting his thoughts and existential musings on film, Law immediately becomes a person we should all congratulate. To Law's credit, the film itself isn't terrible either, though it's woefully uneven and really not very good. The film is also somewhat unpredictable, which does earn it some points. We're in a forgiving mood today.

Overacting Marco Lok stars as Big Chick, a supposedly scummy youth who quarrels incessantly with his harridan-like granny (Law Lan, turning in one of her less agreeable performances). Basically, he's a total layabout who's also supposed to be a good kid. His parents (Sammy and Siu-Yee, playing above their age) think he's all right, but Granny has it in for the kid big time. Meanwhile, his brother Small Chick (Yeung Ka-Shing) is a too-nice kid who gets bullied at school, and is clearly Granny's favorite. As proof that Big Chick is really not as nice as he may seem, he steals his brother's cell phone and throws it into the water in an unconvincing display of hooliganism. Clearly, this is a youth film with some serious issues.

Big Chick's friends also have issues. Triad offspring Suki (Race Wong) really wants to be a good girl despite her sordid roots and skanky fashion sense. Her pal May May (Yan Ng) has an ex-boyfriend (Johnny Lu) who still isn't over her. Meanwhile, slightly meterosexual pal Biggie (Raymond Wong) wants to be a model, and other pal Dragon (Cecilia Cheung's brother Ronnie Cheung) hangs around mouthing off. The lessons and issues here are fairly common: be true to yourself, have faith in your friends, and get used to things changing, because dammit all, they will! Dennis Law doesn't get many points for his more common "Feel 100%" musings, but he should get credit for positing some complexity. Happy endings and smooth sailing are not a given in these kids' lives, which does make The Unusual Youth seem a tad different. At the very least, this isn't a saccharine time at the movies.

On the other hand, not much makes sense here either. Lead character Big Chick is not very consistent and/or likable, and his friends get shafted in the character development area. Of all the pals, only Race Wong's Suki seems to get much focus, and even then her issues are all common ones. She eventually considers a lesbian dalliance with May May, which seems to be a major conceit of the film's print advertising. The Unusual Youth's marketing features shots of Yan Ng and Race Wong about to touch lips, which should get some post-pubescent males' blood boiling. For better or worse, however, the majority of that relationship is thrown into a bizarre coda which basically plays like a fast-motion "the next six months" trailer. The inclusion of the footage feels like Film School 101, i.e. it's supposed to be hip, telling and irreverent, like The Real World with popstars. The problem: it's not very hip, nor telling, nor irreverent. It just uneven, and even weird. When the characters didn't grow on you in a 90-minute film, it's hard to be excited about seeing their futures played out in 3 minutes of unconnected jump cuts.

Ultimately, the best thing about The Unusual Youth is it manages some minor moments without ultra-cloying clinches or long, drawn-out speeches (though the abundance of voice-over by Marco Lok is incredibly annoying). At times, Law's plot seems to ask the viewer to fill in the blanks, an exercise that could reveal far more than what appears to be happening. Or, it could simply reveal that the world of The Unusual Youth simply reflects reality by being disconnected and unexplained. Or, it could simply mean that this is one messy screenplay that makes next to no sense. You can decide for yourself what it all means, but the recommendation about whether or not to see this film is a resounding, "It's up to you." Nothing about the film makes it truly worth recommending to casual filmgoers - except perhaps for the Cheung Chau locations. After seeing the characters wander the streets of the rural island community, you may want to add Cheung Chau to your list of planned tourist stops. I know I do. So...thank you, The Unusual Youth. (Kozo, 2005)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen