review by Neo

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An Interesting Failure ...
Joe Ma is what you call a commercial director as you need to look no further than the Love Undercover series for any sort of prove. However, there are times when Joe Ma touches upon the more dramatic side of emotions like Funeral March. Funeral March was one of Charlene’s first movies and perhaps stills her best performance. It was heavy on inflicting emotions and yet at the same time, it was something fresh and refreshing to watch. The performances of Eason Chan and Charlene was an act of brilliance and as a result it is no surprise that after 4 years on, Joe Ma decided to have another crack at the Romantic Drama genre. In similar tragic formulas, Ma once again realize that raw acting talent is the most surprising in casting Fiona Sit and Taiwanese Dylan Kwok, but then again it is really a big gamble. Whether Ma’s gamble was a success like Funeral March is very hard to say as in a way it works and in other way the movie just doesn’t have that extra click on the audience. Sure, Ma tries his hardest to impress or to emote, but somehow, the movie does not connect and as result lacking in deep emotional value and compassion for the characters. That’s not to say, that this movie is a complete failure, as it is somewhat unique and original, especially in the cliché 2005 HK cinema. The acting of Fiona Sit shows a lot about her character and her potential acting ability maybe not limited to being just a spoil brat as seen in 2 Young. While this isn’t Lost in Time or Funeral March, it is what Neo would call – an interesting failure.

The movie goes like this: Yin's life is full of unfortunates, she has to take care of her brother who is dumped by his wife because he has arteritis*, and their daughter. Life is hard but she is optimistic and feels satisfied. One day, Yin (Sit) and Ken meet (Kwok). Ken is a robber and has no relatives; the warmth of Yin's family touches him. He helps Yin and they fall in love gradually. However, Ken causes Yin's brother die indirectly, hatred and love co-exists in Yin's heart which makes her has no choice but to break up with Ken. At that moment, Yin discovers she has arteritis and it is going into an aggravation. When she is facing the possibility of death, she realizes she cannot live without Ken. They get back finally and confront to the difficulties together. However, the God is not so kind, Ken is destined to lose Yin... (*Arteritis is a disease that causes inflammation of the arteries (blood vessels). Organs/tissues supplied by the affected vessels may become damaged due to lack of proper blood supply.)

The real reason why Neo called this movie an interesting failure, is that well it is not emotionally impacting, the movie has a lot of ideas and themes about life that is pretty well explored and perhaps leaving the audience asking some thought-provoking questions. Life is unpredictable, and perhaps everything happens for a particular reason, but then again sometimes it is just damn ambiguous. Sometimes you meet someone, and you realize afterwards, that you met that person for a reason, whether it is to help you learn about life, or as simple as leading to your next action. Fiona Sit plays her role in a manner that one is damn vulnerable within her, yet attempts to look brave on the outer shell. Kwok is a mysterious character, perhaps one you would call, a bad guy with a good heart, or maybe he is just damn lost. The themes that Ma explores are quite deep, disguising the movie with a romantic setting, Ma deals with the question of mortality. When do we die? How will we die? The answer is not at all simple, but yet it can simply be answered as – who knows? How do people deal with their life when they realize that they have a terminal disease? Suicide or live on? Certainly, Ma cleverly blends subplot with the main plot, exploring Fiona’s elder brother’s internal turmoil – unable to accept his fate and when he finally has the will power to confront his long time lover and realize how much she has changed, it finally got to him. Perhaps suicide was the only way out of his unhappiness and unfortunate circumstances, or perhaps it was his encounter with Kwok that leads to his final decision.

Life is precious, but what is life without a goal. A life without a purpose is simply a life half-lived. When one loses their purpose in life for a short while – it’s ok, but when one loses his direction and aims for a long run, his life is meaningless. Ma utilities all sort of cliché to help emote – crying child, girl under an umbrella and a crying Fiona Sit, but somehow, it just doesn’t connect. Maybe it is just me, or maybe it is not, but whatever it is – it is a more than credible effort from Joe Ma. Ma attempts to redeem himself, with a brilliant finale, the last 20 minutes seems either pointless yet immensely deep at the same time. Life is contradictory, and perhaps it is because of one encounter with a particular person that led to all these events and downfalls. Then again, who knows?

Joe Ma has directed a lot of movies, but rarely and only once in a while he tries to tell a real story and when he does he usually succeeds. While this isn’t exactly what you call the next Lost in Time, but Ma comes seemingly close to it and somehow it just fails to click. Embrace Your Shadow attempts to comment upon the randomness of life, the purpose of life, the idea of love and the meaning and reason behind each encounter we experiences. Despite not being emoting, Ma compensates it will an interesting and original storyline and the shocking finale twist; perhaps will leave you thinking about the real reason behind one’s action. The issue of money – is it even worth more than life? Was it because of money that leads to all these events? What is life without money? Or perhaps you ask it the other way around – What is money without life? Perhaps it is what Ma wants to express, and yes he does that brilliantly. As for Fiona Sit, she is quickly becoming Neo's new squeeze, with good performances in 2 Young and now a credible performance in a difficult role here, Fiona Sit has clearly announced her presence in the bleak 2005. Forget the emoting; forget his previous decade of romantic comedies as this is all in all a credible effort and certainly what Neo would call – an interesting failure. Let’s hope Ma doesn’t leave me thinking for another 4 years…and Fiona - just go and make another movie real quick...

I rate it 8/10

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Genre: Romance
Director: Director: Joe Ma Wai-Ho
Cast: Fiona Sit Hoi-Kei, Dylan Kwok Bun-Chiu, K.K. Cheung Kwok-Keung
Reviewed by Neo (Andrew), September 2005