review by Neo

Support the Site by Buying from YesAsia

Just want to say – Happy Birthday
This movie gives new meaning to the cliché – Happy Birthday. It true that whenever it is your birthday, your phone rings more than 10 usual days combined. Usually, you will receive a wishing of happy birthday from voice mails, calls and SMS. Happy Birthday, reminded Neo of someone, it is a funny feeling, how you never realise, until something that sparks your memory. For the last five years, a special friend would either call or leave a message saying happy birthday, even though Neo never remembers her birthday. It made Neo feel bad, as every year he either forgets or he really do not know when her birthday is – August or June? With a brink of an eye, it has been 5 years and hopefully this year, I will somehow be able to call her on her birthday to say – happy birthday. Director Jingle Ma loves to manipulate the audience emotions and after 8 years since the emotionally appealing Fly Me to Polaris, Ma is back in form.

Jingle Ma have created a beautifully filmed movie that goes back and forward in time about a couple that is born for each other, and yet for whatever reasons, preferred to remain best friends, rather than lovers. It is touching and emotionally charged piece of melodrama that works better than all those cliché from the Korean industry nowadays. It is refreshing to witness a romantic drama that keeps you at the edge of your seat and at the same time, providing the audience with a relaxing mood of watching a pair of hopeless romantic. Ma explores the themes of love and how sometimes, believing in a white lie is better than knowing the cynical truth. Sometimes, you wonder, is it really better to remain friends, so that you can always love her, rather than take the risk as lovers. Louis Koo produces an extremely likable performance, but pale in comparison to the fine acting of his counterpart. Still, Koo is immensely likable as he never gave up his love for Rene, even when he is with other people. Rene Liu outshines Koo in every scene, as her character seems more real and impacting to the audience. Her character is full of depth and there are dramatic moments of her imminent shouting in the car and her teary eyes tell the story of someone regretting what could have been. It is a movie that is driven by her controlled performance and certainly an outside chance of lifting the Best Actress Award later this month.

If there is an aspect of the film that can be improved, will be the age of the two leading stars. Louis Koo is 36 and Rene Liu is around that age, it is almost truism to say that they were not convincing in the scene when they were supposed to be 19. It is an outrageous piece of sequence, as Koo and Liu looks nothing like 19, despite both making every effort, from hair, make up to movements and even the atmosphere of a karaoke, it is still not believable. Apart from this minor detachment, the film is a piece of quality cinema and perhaps one of Jingle Ma’s most accomplished films. While Fly to Polaris, relies more on cheating the audience and some fine performances from Richie Yen and Cecilia Cheung to create an emotional connection. Happy Birthday adds an extra layer and it is through the emotionally charged script by Sylvia Chang, based on a story by Rene Liu.

All in all, Happy Birthday, despite Neo’s acclamation is till a work that very much relying on a cliché at the end to cheat the audience into teary minded. However, the most important thing is that it worked and in that Ma should be given full credit. It is a beautiful feeling when you receive a message or a call on your birthday and a feeling that can not be described in words. It is even wonderful, when you receive messages from people that you may think have forgotten you. Ma have clearly created a film worth watching and reminding us that a few words can mean to lot to someone. It is funny how you always think you made the right decision, until later regretting it when it becomes too late. May be it is human nature to doubt or may be we are just making excuses for ourselves constantly. Before finishing up, let’s answer yourself a question - Is it someone’s birthday today? If so, just go and say the two beautiful words…

I rate it 8.5/10.

Comment on this movie on HK Neo Reviews Forum

Directed by Jingle MA; written Sylvia CHEUNG, Mathias WOO.
Starring Louis KOO, Rene LIU, Bowie TSANG, Lawrence CHOW, Shaun TAM.
Genre: Romantic Drama
Reviewed by Andrew (Neo), April 2007

Trailer/Short Clip: